Thursday, October 4, 2007

silver sprUng: fat, happy, and rocking out

Not-quite-Christian rock band Anberlin plays the 9:30 Club last spring. Rock concerts like this might become a municipal affair if the Fillmore opens in 2010.

Does Downtown Silver Spring have an eating problem?

Yesterday's Diamondback laments that the "Silver SprUng model" of redevelopment could starve College Park of its personality. It's an argument that was previously raised last March by Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space's Richard Layman. While JUTP completely disagreed with Layman's assessment of Silver Spring, he makes a good point in saying elsewhere that former County Executive Doug Duncan "appreciate[d] the economic development power of arts and culture."

That's where the Post's Marc Fisher comes in. Fisher, who championed the "public" part of Silver Spring's revitalization - writes in a column today that plans to open a Fillmore music venue show how County funding is overwhelming Downtown:
"After the county's massive investment in downtown Silver Spring, the Discovery Channel headquarters and the AFI theater, there ought to be a point when the market is allowed to take over . . . Is this the last investment the county will have to make to nourish downtown Silver Spring?"
And he may have a point. After all, JUTP asked the very same question last summer when the Birchmere plans originally fell through. Downtown Silver Spring is currently home to what one resident called a "nascent music scene," with everything from punk shows in group houses to folk icons playing at church - and Ike Leggett didn't have to foot the bill.

so much more AFTER THE JUMP . . .

The County's largesse helped pay for the Downtown Silver Spring development along Ellsworth Drive.

Nonetheless, civic art has always been the cornerstone of good urban planning. While a concert hall is a larger investment than a sculpture in Woodside Park, it reflects a commitment to the arts, be it the patron-funded Sistine Chapel ceiling or a Senses Fail show. And as long as the average new home in MoCo tops a million dollars, there doesn't seem to be much wrong with the County's policy of running liquor stores and building a sports facility so large it could only be called "The Soccerplex."

Even with a budget crunch looming overhead, Montgomery County residents have gotten used to a large amount of municipal services and publicly funded development. Given that standard, is the public investment in Downtown Silver Spring really that excessive? Or, as Ike Leggett himself explained to us last week, "If this [public investment] does not justify economic development, what is the reason to do it?"

The arts are thriving in Downtown Silver Spring - not just via public money but by good old-fashioned private investment as well. Perhaps the bigger struggle is to ensure that the community maintains a strong art scene - rather than questioning where it comes from. After all, the kids who some residents fear will flood Downtown after the Fillmore opens won't care if they saw a show in a government-subsidized venue.

Pictured above:


Anonymous said...

The funniest thing I have seen about the Fillmore was inthis article from the Gazette:

Ken Davis, a Silver Spring resident who lives about three blocks away from the future site of the Fillmore, said he was less concerned with the economics involved than what an up to 2,000-person club meant for a neighborhood he said was heavily made up of ‘‘baby boomers.”

All shows at the Fillmore in Philadelphia, for example, are general admission, standing room only, according to its Web site. Davis said many who live near downtown Silver Spring who were ‘‘middle-aged” like him have expressed concern that the venue would ‘‘without question” tend to appeal to a younger audience. And even though both Leggett and Mankin have said the hall would cater to a wide range of musical tastes and offer flexibility as to its use, Davis said until he saw evidence of that, he would continue spending his money at Alexandria’s Birchmere.

So now baby boomers, the ones who coined the phrase "never trust anyone over 30" and who listened to Elvis and the Rolling Stones despite their parents' objections to lewd, suggestive music, are automatically expected to oppose the musical choices of their younger neighbors? I guess it is true: we really do become our parents.

Anonymous said...

Fisher also justifies the construction of the Strathmore, which is perhaps unparalleled by any other single investment this county has ever made in its quality of life, save Metro. The goal of economic development is to attract the best businesses and residents to Montgomery County. Strathmore, Downtown Silver Spring, The Soccerplex, and the Conference Center all do that. However, investing in music venues that attract crowds that are too young to even think about affording one of the new condominiums going up in Silver Spring does not make economic sense. Silver Spring is alread booming. Why give away more taxpayer dollars to a project (Fillmore) that does not improve our quality of life, and could be financed through the private sector. Between all the concerts at MCI, Nissan, and Merriweather as well as more local acts, what kind of a music seen is Montgomery County looking for?

Anonymous said...

Also.. if we killed the Birchmere deal, what makes you think the Montgomery County high arts community can't take down Fillmore?

Anonymous said...

The purpose of the Sistine Chapel was economic development?

This "the purpose of arts subsidies is to promote economic development" argument sounds to me like a euphemism for "taxpayers should only subsidize arts for rich people." Which is a lot of what has been going on - did Doug Duncan really care about the arts enough to spend $100 million on Strathmore Hall, or did it have more to do with his campaign contributors who were on Strathmore's board?