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.