BUT FIRST: Blake High students are multitasking like pros (man, my alma mater's been in the news a lot); the Scene gives its perspective on our meeting with George Leventhal; and that very post broke a Just Up The Pike record, bringing over 300 visitors to the blog last Thursday.
AND LET'S NOT FORGET: Find out what Marilyn Praisner really thinks about East County . . . TOMORROW!
FINALLY: What's my first impression of the proposed Falkland North development? Those buildings - or that building - is really big. It's a huge change from the small, two- and three-story apartments and townhomes that characterize Falkland Chase now, and it won't do much to create a community. I can see Home Properties wanted to take a page from Modernist architect Le Corbusier's playbook and do the whole "towers in the park" thing like the Enclave, but just because it works in White Oak doesn't mean it works in Downtown Silver Spring, and it barely works in White Oak.
Mary Reardon from the Historical Society said in the Gazette that "Smart Growth doesn’t mean you have to cover every square foot with high-rises around the Metro station," but we aren't even doing that in Falkland North. There's a lot of open space in this project, but I don't think people are going to enjoy it. People like parks and squares, not oversized courtyards and fountains. They're pretty, but in the long run, they'll do little to benefit residents compared to the cost of maintenance.
The current Falkland Chase has a lot of small parks and courtyards and a stream running through the complex. It's simple, and it works. Seventy years ago, these apartments were built for families whose kids just wanted a place to run around. That may not be the goal of modern apartment developers, but it would be helpful to think about how people will use the space as opposed to what will make their jaw drop the farthest.
Just a thought.
While the design of the Home Properties project is certainly open to criticism, the more pressing issue is whether or not to pull the site out from any possiblity of redevelopment with an historic designation.
There are some nice things about the status quo, but there are also very compelling alternative uses for a site like this within walking distance to the metro. One of these is the siting of housing within walking distance of metro stations, espcially affordable housing. Remember Home Properties is proposing to place 14acres of this 22-acre complex under historic protection. That's quite a sop to historical preservation, 14 acres of land within walking distance of metro. Quite enough of a compromise on the developer's part.
The Home Properties concept is compelling, even if their architecture isn't. That concept would blend the affordable housing with market rate housing. This avoids ghetto-izing the affordable housing, and it insures that the properties will be well-maintained in order to attract the highest market rents. So the affordable housing community is not only integrated with upper middle class residents, it also is guaranteed a well-maintained facility. The County should embrace this model, tweak the architecture and design if necessary. But it would be a pity to blow the opportunity.
BTW: the Home Properties project would increase the amount of affordable housing (and of course total density) over what currently exists on the site.
So criticize and tweak the architecture, but don't eliminate any and every redevelopment concept by bestowing historic designation on the north parcel.
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