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.

Friday, June 12, 2015

the montgomery and prince george's gazette will shut down (and it sucks)

After nearly 60 years in production, the Gazette, a chain of weekly local newspapers in Montgomery and Prince George's counties, will shut down in August. That means an area of over two million people won't have a local newspaper.

One Very Not Commemorative Newspaper


Post Community Media LLC, which owns the Gazette, announced the closure this morning at the Montgomery County edition's offices in Gaithersburg. Washington Post reporter Bill Turque tweeted the news shortly after. 69 people will lose their jobs.

The free, weekly paper's closure is a huge blow to the region's local news scene. While there are many more ways to get your news now than there might have been when the Gazette opened in 1959, it's unclear whether any of those media can fill the void.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

as silver spring urbanizes, neighbors disagree on who "belongs" in a civic association

Some members of a Silver Spring civic association recently tried to keep their new neighbors from joining. While residents rejected the measure, the fact that the issue got consideration at all illustrates how people disagree on who "belongs" in urbanizing communities.

High-Rise, Chelsea Heights Houses, Existing Cape Cod House
The new townhouses rise behind single-family homes in Seven Oaks-Evanswood. All photos by the author.
The Seven Oaks-Evanswood Civic Association (SOECA) sits in the shadow of downtown Silver Spring, just a few blocks from the Metro station. Nearly all of its 220 households live in single-family homes, though the association recently lost a years-long battle to stop Chelsea Heights, a development of 63 townhomes on the site of a former private school on Ellsworth Drive.

Last week, the SOECA board proposed an amendment to the civic association's bylaws that would limit membership to "residents of the R-60 zoned areas," or people living in single-family homes. The amendment would effectively bar the new townhouse residents from joining. The association already keeps out people living in a handful of small apartment buildings within the neighborhood's borders, which are drawn to exclude nearby high-rise apartment buildings.

The proposal unleashed a fiery conversation in the normally sleepy neighborhood, both online and at a community meeting last night that 50 people attended. But after a vote, neighbors voted 32-17 against the change.