Friday, September 28, 2007

residents pick apart fillmore's merits, programming

Residents are concerned that the new Fillmore club on Colesville Road - named for a fixture of the 1960's counterculture scene - will attract the wrong crowd to Downtown.

With the Fillmore nearly a done deal for Silver Spring, local residents frustrated by the loss of the Birchmere to College Park are crying foul over the County's handling of the situation.

"They're getting a huge break for this," laments Rich Swanson, referring to the $8 million of County and State money presumably going to Live Nation, the national concert promoter who will operate the venue. (Doug Duncan, now an official at the University of Maryland, is currently trying to take that money - originally earmarked for the Birchmere - to its new location in College Park.) "I find it kind of offensive that my tax dollars are being used to subsidize the world's largest music venue."

Swanson led the charge to reinstate talks between the County and the Birchmere before they collapsed last summer. "I'm ecstatic about the Birchmere coming to College Park," says Swanson. "And it's really a shame. I thought it would fit well in Silver Spring."

A look at the acts playing a Fillmore venue in Philadelphia - emo band Thursday; indie darlings Minus the Bear; edgy comedians Brian Posehn and Maria Bamford - suggest it would attract younger music fans, a crowd that's already frustrated some residents. Last week, the South Four Corners Community Association, had a popular go-go event at the Silver Spring Boys and Girls Club shut down in favor of what the neighborhood called "more traditional" programming.

so much more AFTER THE JUMP . . .

A rendering of the Fillmore, a music venue that will open on Colesville Road by 2010.

"My biggest concern is that Fillmore does a better job of outreach to the community than the Birchmere," suggests Philip Olivetti, member of the Silver Spring Citizens Advisory Board.
"I think they'll go a long way in winning over older people."

On the Woodside Park Community Association listserv, a hotbed of Birchmere/Fillmore debate, the comments suggest that there's a lot of convincing to do.

"The majority of WPCA residents were not seeking a 2000 plus standing room only music venue for music that most of us in the WPCA never heard of," writes Woodside Park resident Bill Borwegen in a series of posts. "Bethesda gets Strathmore Hall and now Silver Spring will get two thousand more teenagers roaming the streets any night of the week. My kids will love it."

And for some residents, that's exactly the point. Mike Diegel of Allied Civic, an umbrella organization covering about forty East County civic groups, looks forward to seeing shows at both the Fillmore and the Birchmere with his wife and their teenage children.

"I'd go to the Birchmere. I'm a fan . . . but it's a major production to get there," says Diegel. "I think this [Fillmore] has got a lot more to offer."

In exchange for the rights to operate the venue, Live Nation will be required to set aside a certain number of dates each year for Montgomery County events, such as benefits and graduations. Offering something for local residents was an imperative, says Leggett and County Councilwoman Valerie Ervin (D-Silver Spring).

"It hasn't been an easy process, but we listened to the community's concerns," said Ervin at Wednesday's press conference announcing the Fillmore deal. "And Ike Leggett and I will continue to do so."

Olivetti expects that the County and Live Nation will hold to their promises. "I've known Ike twenty years. He's a man of his word," says Olivetti. "I think he'll do the right thing."

Thursday, September 27, 2007

it's official: fillmore comes to silver spring

YESTERDAY: TheWashCycle discusses our purple line series. TOMORROW: Find out what some local residents and activists are saying about the Fillmore.

A new banner commemorates the announcement of plans to open a Fillmore music club in the former J.C. Penney building on Colesville Road.

As the spurned Birchmere quietly announced plans to open a new branch in College Park, all eyes were on Downtown Silver Spring yesterday as County Executive Ike Leggett announced plans to open a Fillmore music club in the former J.C. Penney on Colesville Road.

"It is a terrific day for those who play music, those who listen to music and those who want to enhance Silver Spring," says Leggett, who held a press conference at the Silver Theatre with officials from national concert promoter Live Nation and the Lee Development Group, who will be developing the club and property behind it.

Keeping with a tradition that began in the 1960's, shiny red apples were handed to attendees as they left, in addition to psychedelic posters (at right)that recalled the Fillmore's heyday as a landmark in the San Francisco counterculture scene. The County expects to have a lease signed by the end of the year and for the doors to open by 2010.

a JUTP prediction comes true: so much more AFTER THE JUMP . . .

In a press conference at the Silver Theatre, County Executive Ike Leggett announces the signing of a non-binding agreement to open a music club on Colesville Road.

"Silver Spring will become even more of a destination point . . . where you will be able to see and hear programming you can't see anywhere else," says Ted Mankin of Live Nation. Mankin rattled off a list of artists - including Coldplay, Ricky Martin and Willie Nelson - who have played Fillmore-branded venues throughout the country.

"Well, I'm waiting for Sly and the Family Stone," responds Leggett, causing an eruption of laughter.

Silver Spring's Fillmore will be the first in the country built completely from scratch. It will be Montgomery County's first building with a green roof. And on top of that, the club will be just the first phase of a mixed-use development (at right) at Colesville and Georgia that could take as long as eighteen years to complete.

"We're taking a big risk here, and we're a little bit crazy because this has never been done before," says Bruce H. Lee of Lee Development Group, who owns most of the block the J.C. Penney is in. "This is so far outside the box that it's going to require tremendous creativity."

According to the project's head architect, the cramped site will pose the biggest challenge. "It's a fairly small footprint for a venue," notes Jack Menovah of Hickok Cole Architects. "It's difficult to get that much venue into a space that small."

Just Up The Pike is especially excited to hear that an equalizer display will be included in the building's fa├žade, as we originally suggested last spring. "Bill Graham [original founder and promoter of the Fillmore] was known for his posters and light displays," says Menovah. "Anything is possible."

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

leggett lays out guidelines for birchmere replacement

Montgomery County would like to see a new music hall open in this former J.C. Penney department store on Colesville Road.

As music fans across Silver Spring debate what type of new venue would be ideal for the old J.C. Penney building Downtown, County Executive Ike Leggett laid out his own expectations last night at the Silver Spring Regional Services Center in a meeting with myself, Henry from The Scene and Jen from The Penguin.

"My view," says Leggett, an admitted Michael Bolton fan, "is to have a venue and facility that caters to whatever we think is appropriate . . . a variety of music for a variety of tastes."

What is "appropriate" for the former J.C. Penney building on Colesville - once slated to become home to a second branch of Alexandria's Birchmere, a nationally renowned folk venue - has become a contested issue both on- and off-line. Earlier this month, the South Four Corners Neighborhood Assocation forced a Boys and Girls Club to stop hosting go-go shows, citing an increase in noise and crime. Meanwhile, news that national concert promoter Live Nation was a contender for the venue roiled neighborhood listservs.

so much more AFTER THE JUMP . . .

County Executive "Ike" Leggett, a former law professor, takes to a whiteboard to explain why the Birchmere wasn't the best fit for a proposed music venue in Downtown Silver Spring.

The community's vision of a "small entertainment and dining experience" - originally promised by the Birchmere - isn't economically feasible for the County, who's subsidizing it, according to Leggett. "I have to justify two million dollars [in funding] to the State," explains Leggett. "If this does not justify economic development, what is the reason to do it?"

In order to be financially sound, the new venue would have to cater to a range of musical tastes. "Sometimes, it may be small and quiet and intimate, or sometimes it might be large," says Leggett. "So you can get the small and intimate, you can get the dinner theatre, or you can get rock or reggae."

"I have no problem with Michael Bolton or Wayne Newton," states Leggett, naming two artists who recently played the Birchmere. "But it doesn't justify the economic investment."

The County has also asked Live Nation and other bidders to provide space for banquets, benefits and community uses. The redevelopment of Indian Spring Country Club, formerly home to many County functions, has resulted in events being held at venues such as Martin's Crosswinds in Greenbelt.

"We want a community institution," says Leggett. "There are a certain number of dates that will be used for this facility . . . there will be some tension in seeking a proper balance." He compares the venue's programming to that of the County's rec centers, which can be rented for private functions in addition to events offered to the community at large.

Forcing the proposed venue to cater to the County's and the community's whims raised concerns on Silver Spring, Singular last month, but the county executive feels business would not be lost. "I think the market forces will dictate," insists Leggett. "If Michael Bolton came over and said 'we'll only fill it at $100 a night,' but someone else approached the vendor for a [private event], they'll say 'we can do better'."

The goal is to ensure that a publicly-funded facility serves the entire public, according to Leggett. If the venue isn't attracting a wide spectrum of visitors, it won't only be unprofitable - it could mar Downtown's reputation as a place on the mend. "If it's not successful, it erodes the confidence," says Leggett. "Unless you have that element of success, nothing else will happen."

Thursday, September 20, 2007

four corners refuses to get on the go-go train

ALSO IN THE GAZETTE: Controversial Ashton Meeting Place (which we discussed in June) goes back to Planning Board; David Fogel ouster upsets Silver Spring arts scene (which we reported yesterday).

Local favorites Jimmie's Chicken Shack play at Hometown Holidays in Rockville last May. (Not go-go, really, but still pertinent to the story below.)

As Montgomery County gears up to announce its latest plans for a concert hall in the old J.C. Penney building, a music venue of another sort is shutting its doors. The Gazette offers the disgustingly punny headline "'Go-go' a no-no" to describe how residents in South Four Corners forced the Silver Spring Boys and Girls Club to stop hosting go-go concerts.

The Washington, D.C. area has a limited history as a musical hotbed. We have a notable bluegrass/folk scene, largely in part to the fabled Birchmere. Hardcore punk and especially emo can trace their roots to D.C. in the early 1980's. And, of course, we have go-go - a melange of funk, swing, and anything in between made famous by Chuck Brown - which is unusual in that it's never really caught on anywhere else. I'm sure there are plenty of people even here who don't understand it.

so much more AFTER THE JUMP . . .

THOSE DAMN KIDS: Silver Spring's neighborhood associations are turning a deaf ear to the needs of local youth, particularly when it comes to music.

If I lived in the residential neighborhood where the Boys and Girls Club is located, I'd be pissed off if I had to put up with groups of noisy kids, strange cars parked on my street, and so on. This may not be an ideal location for a music venue. On the other hand, the possible Live Nation club on Colesville is a great location, but many people are still up in arms about it - if only because it won't feature the kind of music they want to hear.

That bias is the issue. Nonetheless, I'm still surprised by the South Four Corners Citizens' Association's demand for "more traditional Boys and Girls Club programming." What does that even mean? Aren't Boys and Girls Clubs supposed to give kids a place to spend their time, thus keeping them off The Streets? If it held shows for a genre of music that hadn't unfortunately found itself linked with violence, would the neighbors care as much? Of course not.

While Prince George's County attempted - and failed - to shut down several go-go clubs there earlier this year because they had become "magnets for violent crime," the events at the Boys and Girls Club hadn't spurred any major incidents save for a few fights, according to the MoCo police. If these go-go shows can give kids a place to make music and enjoy themselves, I say they can be a boon to the community.

The question, unfortunately, is whether the community will allow that to happen.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

gallery director controversy roils local listservs

Until this summer, David Fogel was the director of the Heliport Gallery, a small space located on the first floor of an apartment building on 13th Street. Last month, he was abruptly fired, sparking a firestorm of protest on local listservs.

"David Fogel had a true vision and feeling for our community," wrote local artist Tom Block in an e-mail sent out to the listservs last Thursday. "To have him replaced in this manner is a true detriment to the Silver Spring scene."

Heliport is run by the Gateway Georgia Avenue Revitalization Corporation, an non-profit organization devoted to improving the Georgia Avenue corridor in both Silver Spring and the District. Citing an interest in "moving in a new direction," GGARC's executive director "came to my office and verbally told me," of the firing, says Fogel in an e-mail interview. "I then received an official letter, later that day."

Sorry for the lack of pictures, but there's so much more AFTER THE JUMP . . .

Fogel, who says he "can't specifically remember when I began with Gateway," was quickly embraced by the Silver Spring arts community. His mother founded what is now the Imagination Stage in Bethesda. In addition to his work at Heliport, located on the first floor of the Gramax Building on 13th Street, Fogel also helped start the South Silver Spring Merchants' Association. He also posts regularly on the South Silver Spring Neighborhood Association's blog.

Having worked alongside Fogel at the Heliport Gallery for years, Block is protesting the appointment of Brenda Smoak to interim director. A Kensington resident, Smoak owns Alchemy, an art store on Georgia Avenue. Already a member of Gateway's Board of Directors, Smoak was already familiar with the organization, but some residents took issue with her day job.

"It seems irregular that a boardmember of a non-profit organization would replace a program director in this manner," wrote Block, calling Smoak's appointment a "conflict of interest." In his e-mail, he encouraged readers to boycott her store and register their complaints with the Montgomery County Council, who provides funding for GGARC.

"It's a tragedy," says Block in a phone interview. "No one can figure it out. But there are some dubious circumstances."

Smoak maintains that her only goal is to support the local scene. "My whole life has been about supporting artists," says Smoak. "I wanted to help keep the gallery open until they find a replacement."

As owner of a store that sells items from over a hundred local artists, Smoak is astonished that one would turn against her. What she's referred to as a "vindictive e-mail campaign" by Block has forced her to resign from Gateway altogether.

"I have removed myself from everything," says Smoak. "I don't know how to address the listservs . . . I support [Tom Block] in his endeavors, and I'm kind of shocked because I'm being attacked." David Fogel's removal was "a personnel matter I wasn't privy to," she adds.

Word of Smoak's resignation from the Board - and complaints from other South Silver Spring shopowners fearing a boycott - led Block to write a new e-mail Monday morning. "I heartily retract this call," writes Block, "and will plan on visiting her enchanting boutique in the next few days to purchase some well-deserved jewelry for my wife."

The promise of a sale wasn't enough to placate Smoak. "Tom Block and his wife, Debbie Spielberg have posted erroneous information far and wide," responds Smoak in an e-mail later that day. "Their attempt to hurt my business, and ultimately, adversely affect the livelihood of over 140 artists selling their work through Alchemy and it's [sic] markets, is devastating to our community."

Meanwhile, Fogel continues to look ahead for new opportunities. "I've been incredibly humbled and awed by the support and kind words I've received," says Fogel. "I'm looking forward to moving on with my life, with Silver Spring and the positive future that we both have in store."

Monday, September 17, 2007


Just Up The Pike has been away for a little while now. We - I mean, I hope you, The Reader, have not gotten bored or taken us off of your feeds/blogroll/whatever. But the start of architecture studio is proving to make a busier semester than I could have ever expected.

That being said, however, JUTP is still rolling along, albeit at a slower and more excuse-laden rate. I'm currently working on a couple of stories - including an investigation into a recent shake-up at the Gateway Georgia Avenue Revitalization Corporation that has zipped across the Silver Spring listservs. Hopefully we'll all learn a little more about that in the days to come.

In the meantime . . . keep by your computers. Just Up The Pike is here to stay.

Friday, September 7, 2007

september and place-making in east county

IN THE GAZETTE: Construction trailer causes kerfuffle in Cloverly; Konterra development steals spotlight from growth of existing neighborhoods; my high school paper named best in the state.

ABOVE: These signs attempt to define the boundaries of Colesville.

As much as I love East County, it's hard to find a sense of community here. In the past forty years, rural farming villages like Burtonsville, Colesville and Fairland have been swallowed up by suburban development designed with little regard to creating defined "places."

"Place" refers both to the boundaries of a community as a whole - as suggested by signs like those used in Colesville (see above) and the spaces within it, like well-known streets, shopping districts, or parks and squares. Downtown Silver Spring has "the Turf," which serves as a hangout for the entire East County. Its success proves how important public spaces are to a community's health - and to the local economy, as seen by the measures Downtown restaurants are taking in preparation for this weekend's Jazz Festival, partially held on the Turf.

While these kinds of spaces don't exist Up The Pike, the whole month of September seems to be devoted to creating public spaces for East County residents to hang out with one another, even if only temporary.

so much more AFTER THE JUMP . . .

Attractions for this year's Summer Carnival are set up at the corner of Fairland Road and Old Columbia Pike.

For the next two weekends, the massive field at Fairland Road and Old Columbia Pike will become home to the 16th Annual Summer Carnival, hosted by the Burtonsville Volunteer Fire Department. Riding a Ferris wheel may not seem like a town-building activity, but the carnival creates a "town square" of sorts where East County residents can hang out and enjoy themselves, even if only for a few nights.

At the end of the month, the 17th-annual Burtonsville Day casts Old Columbia Pike as East County's Main Street, complete with a parade. This year's celebration is especially important as it commemorates the fifth anniversary of the Fairland Community Recreation Center, a facility that gives residents a place to meet year-round - albeit in a more structured fashion than a public square. I doubt you'll hear people say "let's meet up at the community center," but it's an important step towards creating better gathering places.

Over the summer, we talked about Ashton's struggle to create a village center that showed the community's heritage while also giving residents a place to hang out. These spaces are every bit as important to East County's development as office parks and highway interchanges, if not more so. Events like the Summer Carnival and Burtonsville Day show East County residents want to get together and celebrate their community. How can we harness that energy into creating places where they can do that during the rest of the year?

Monday, September 3, 2007

my favorite sign ever

Montgomery County's new speed cameras certainly aren't making friends of local drivers, as witnessed by this vandalized sign on Briggs Chaney Road near the Jain Center in Cloverly. While Just Up The Pike doesn't condone these activities (especially with such sloppy work), I can't help but be amused.

With the new school year underway, JUTP will be doing regular posts only on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. While you may not see as many long-form pieces (such as our six-part series on the Purple Line, which is worth a good look if you haven't already), I'll continue to keep you posted on what's going on in East County - or, at the very least, what I think of it.

Happy Labor Day! We'll see you on Wednesday.