Thursday, July 23, 2015

this map shows which parts of the DC area are really "urban" and "suburban"

Where does "the city" start and end? Some might say it's the District line. But in reality, the lines between "city" and "suburb" are more unclear than you think.

Who are you calling suburban?
"Urban" (blue) and "suburban" (green) parts of the DC area based on housing density. Map by the author. Click for a high-resolution version.


I got into an argument with someone at a happy hour a few years ago. Why? This dude said I lived in the suburbs, because Silver Spring was outside the District. Even if I was literally 1000 feet from Eastern Avenue.

"But no," I protested, "Silver Spring is an urban place! We have tall buildings! We're a major transit hub! I walk everywhere!" He wouldn't relent, and a normal bar disagreement got way more heated than it needed to be. (Thankfully, nobody got hurt.)

Many people would say the same: DC is "the city," and everything else is "the suburbs." But as our region grows and changes, the lines between "city" and "suburb" can get kind of blurry.

Friday, July 17, 2015

ice cream: your doctor may hate it, but your city loves it

Sunday is National Ice Cream Day, which is great for fans of cold desserts. But it's even better for urban places, because ice cream is a great tool for placemaking.

moorenko's ice cream on georgia avenue
Moorenko's Ice Cream in Silver Spring. All photos by the author unless noted.


One of the best ways to create a busy, active sidewalk or plaza is by putting food there. Especially ice cream (or gelato, frozen custard, frozen yogurt, and so on). Why? People of all ages can enjoy it, and it's generally cheap enough that most people can afford to eat it.

Most importantly, ice cream melts. You have to consume your ice cream soon after buying it, meaning that people tend to linger outside of ice cream shops.

Of course, ice cream doesn't automatically make a place great. But it definitely helps. Here are a few tips from great ice cream stores and great places around the DC area and beyond.

Friday, June 26, 2015

nine years! (who could have imagined such a thing?)

Sunset over Silver Spring, June 23
I took this during that awesome sunset Tuesday night.
Nine years! Can you believe it? While the focus and style has changed, Just Up The Pike remains. I think of it as a member of my family now. This blog has survived college, graduate school, eight moves (including two out of state), and some thirteen jobs.

Over time, JUTP has been a soapbox, a megaphone, and a sort of confidante. I like to think of it as a member of my family. I'm not even sure if it's a blog anymore: of course there are (infrequent) posts, but we've also got Facebook, Twitter, and as of this week, a newly resurrected Instagram page. JUTP has co-sponsored events in the community from the Flower Theatre Project to PechaKucha Night Silver Spring.

But for me, JUTP is really all of the great friends I've made over the past nine years, and the sense of rootedness and community I feel living here in Silver Spring. Without you, there wouldn't be a Just Up The Pike, but there really wouldn't be a Dan Reed either, because all of your readership and support and love have helped make me who I am today.

This anniversary is particularly special because one of the first blog posts I wrote was about the Purple Line. This is a project that predates my birth, and has been a personal interest of mine since I went to my first community meeting about it in 2003, when I was just fifteen. Governor Hogan's announcement that he's moving forward with the project after months of saying otherwise was bittersweet: after many, many trials and tribulations, we're closer than ever to getting a shovel in the ground.

Last night I joined many Purple Line activists who have been involved since the beginning, and the community leaders and elected officials who have championed it since, for a celebratory drink in downtown Silver Spring. As I walked home down Fenton Street, I passed the new Silver Spring Library, all lit up, with the little plaza that will soon become a Purple Line station.

I thought about what this block looked like just a few years ago. I tried to picture what it will look like on a summer night a couple of years from now, trains running through, people on the streets. It'll be here before we know it, but I'm looking forward to the ride there. And I'm excited to share it with you.

Monday, June 15, 2015

how alexandria's "courage wall" helped me find courage

A chalkboard wall in Alexandria that recently got national attention for asking people to finish the thought "I wish I had the courage to ..." is coming down. For me, the Courage Wall represented a moment when I took a courageous jump of my own.

Looking at the Courage Wall
The Courage Wall in Alexandria. All photos by the author unless noted.


Resident and leadership coach Nancy Belmont set up the wall outside her friend's business in the Del Ray neighborhood last month. Inspired by artist Candy Change's "Before I Die" project in New Orleans, the Courage Wall is an interactive piece of public art, constantly changing as people add their thoughts to it.

Over the following weeks, thousands of people wrote their wishes: "Ask her out." "Start my own business." "Be in the present." The wall appeared everywhere from the Washington Post to ABC News. Even First Lady Michelle Obama tweeted about it. Last week, Belmont took the wall down but promises to return it to another location in Northern Virginia.

'Ask Her Out'
Some of the comments people wrote on the Courage Wall.

The Courage Wall's site, a vacant lot at Mount Vernon and East Del Ray avenues in Del Ray, is a particularly significant location for me. Seven years ago, I had a studio project here while in architecture school at the University of Maryland. Our professor, Mark Ramirez, told us to design something here, but unlike every other project I'd done before, he didn't say what it should be.