Monday, July 18, 2016

not quite an apartment, not quite a townhouse: meet the stacked townhouse

A cross between apartments and townhouses, the "stacked townhouse" is becoming a popular house type among DC-area homebuilders and buyers. While they're great for urban neighborhoods, a quirk in zoning means they're most common in far-flung suburbs.

Two Doors in Stacked Townhouse, Arlington Square
This townhouse in Arlington is actually two houses (note the two house numbers). All photos by the author unless noted.

Also called a two-over-two or maisonette, the stacked townhouse is basically a rowhouse divided into two two-story units, one over the other. Both units have doors on the street, usually in a little alcove, making it look like it's one big house. The garages are tucked in back, on an alley.

This house type is what some architects call the "missing middle," not quite a house, not quite an apartment, but a good alternative housing choice in places where the only options are a detached house or a high-rise.

Historically, lots of cities have rowhouses divided into multiple apartments: Boston's triple-deckers, Chicago's two- and three-flats, Montreal's plexes. In those cases, each building generally has a single owner who rents out the other unit. They don't seem to have been common in DC.


Wednesday, July 6, 2016

downtown silver spring could get a big, new, temporary park

Downtown Silver Spring could get a big new park as part of a massive redevelopment of the Blairs, an apartment complex across the street from the Metro. The park will be temporary, but eventually several larger parks will take its place.

Plan of the new park from the Montgomery County Planning Department.


First built in the 1950s, the Blairs are a complex of apartments, offices, and a strip mall across from the Silver Spring Metro station. Owner Tower Companies will redevelop the 27-acre superblock over the coming years, replacing a massive parking lot with 1400 new apartments (there are 1400 there now), new retail, and four acres of new parks.

The first new apartment tower, called the Pearl, is under construction, but much of the new stuff won't arrive for a decade. In the meantime, Tower wants to create a park over one acre in size on the site of a future apartment building.

The Pearl (New Apartments at The Blairs) Under Construction, March 2016
The Pearl under construction. The temporary park would go in front of it. Photo by the author.

Located near the corner of Eastern Avenue and Blair Mill Road, the new park would have a big lawn and a wood stage for performances. A playground and adult-sized fitness equipment would let people of all sizes work out, while a "fitness trail" would loop around the entire site. The park would also include a community garden and a temporary building that might house a leasing center.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

this blog has officially consumed a decade of my life

I like how the buildings frame the sky this morning (clouds, contrails).
It's official: this blog is ten years old. In that time, I (and many guest contributors) have written 1700 blog posts, while you (the readers) have written over 6500 comments, and given us millions of pageviews. This blog has outlived eight moves, about a half-dozen relationships, fourteen(ish) jobs, three computers, and two bikes. It has changed my life in a really profound way that I could have never imagined when I first sat down at my computer one summer night in 2006.

So now what? For starters, I'm still writing, albeit much less frequently, but you can still get frequent updates about Silver Spring and Montgomery County (and yours truly) on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. You can find me writing about design and transportation stuff as a contributing editor to Washingtonian and occasionally at other places, like CityLab and Montgomery Magazine. And I'm always looking for new ways to cause trouble in Montgomery County with the Action Committee for Transit and One Montgomery.

Here's to another decade (am I really committing to this?) but in the meantime, let's drink. Stay tuned for an announcement about some kind of JUTP happy hour.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

nobody wants these school buses in their backyard, but moving them is worth it

Montgomery County wants to move a school bus lot away from the Shady Grove Metro station to make room for new houses there, but residents of other neighborhoods don't want the buses in their backyards. But the move is worth it if it means more people can live walking distance to the train.

MCPS Shady Grove Bus Lot from Westside Roofdeck
The Shady Grove bus depot across from new townhouses being built. All photos by the author.

This week, the Montgomery County Council could vote not to sell off a school bus depot on Crabbs Branch Way in Rockville, next to the Shady Grove station. Montgomery County Public Schools has outgrown the lot, and the county wants to move it to make room for a new neighborhood around the Metro station that would have 700 new homes, parks, a school, and a library.