Friday, November 30, 2007

now that's what i'm talking about . . .

The Post's Steven Pearlstein sums up the entire ongoing Live Nation/I.M.P. flap (see additional stories in "latest news" box) in a column today. I don't think there's a better assessment of the controversy, at least in the mainstream media:

"[Seth Hurwitz, owner of I.M.P.] claims that he's not against competition, just competition that is subsidized, as has been proposed in both the District and Silver Spring. But in the next breath he allows how competition is overrated. In a world where the most popular bands already have undue leverage over club owners in negotiating the financial split from ticket sales, Hurwitz predicts that having more clubs would only drive ticket prices higher and erode profit margins.

You don't have to accept Hurwitz's critique of competition, however, to acknowledge that he's put forward a financial proposal attractive enough that county officials cannot ignore it. I don't buy Leggett's argument that backing out of the Live Nation deal now will forever brand the county as an unreliable business partner. Any business that has negotiated deals with local governments understands the political risks involved.

The better course would be for Leggett to give Hurwitz 120 days to negotiate a land deal with the Lees, line up financing and sign a binding memorandum of understanding to build the facility. If he can pull it off, Leggett will have saved the state and county $8 million, a fraction of which could be used to compensate Live Nation for its time and trouble. And if Hurwitz fails, Leggett can claim to have been right all along while getting credit for fiscal prudence. Politically and economically, either way's a winner."

In an ideal world, something as straightforward as a music club opening up in Silver Spring would be done with private money and outside of the political sphere, as I imagined over the summer. But in 2007 and in Montgomery County, that's jut not possible. Thus the burden remains on The Government to ensure that its clients (Us) are getting a good deal. You may not agree with Hurwitz' "last-minute" entry into the deal. You may think the Rams Head's Bill Muehlhauser is right in saying Hurwitz is stifling his competition. But, in the end, it all comes down to the money. We've seen that the Fillmore and the 9:30 Club are very similar.

And if you were in the grocery store, trying to compare Brand A to Brand B, how would you decide? It's time for a price check.

Thanks to Roger Wilson for the heads-up!

is "somoco" the new phrase or something?

WHAT'S UP THE PIKE: Delegate Jane Lawton dies of suspected heart attack; Rams Head's owner throws hat into Silver Spring Music Hall fray (at Silver Spring Scene.)

"SoMoCo"? Just when I thought I knew what the lingo was, someone throws a curveball my way.

Check out this fresh Google Map of "SoMoCo", "Downcounty", and all your favorite abbreviated MoCo territories.

In our fast-paced, time-starved world, referring to things by their full names has become a luxury available only to the few. That's why we've shortened the name of our fine county to "MoCo." What better way is there to say "seventh-wealthiest county in the nation" in so few syllables?

Nonetheless, I was quite shocked to hit up the Colesville Giant last week and see this flyer for "Relay For Life of SoMoCo 2008," organized by the American Cancer Society. It goes on to read "including the cities of Aspen Hill, Bethesda, Chevy Chase, Colesville, Gaithersburg, Kensington, Potomac, Rockville, Silver Spring, Wheaton."


At Just Up The Pike, there are very few things I can hold self-evident. Times change, opinions change, but my location always stays the same. So far as I know, I live in East Montgomery County. This blog was founded on my living in East County and being frustrated about The Rest of The County. Before that, I wrote in my high school paper about the East-West divide, even if there isn't a place we call West Montgomery County.

westward ho? or not? there's so much more AFTER THE JUMP . . .

And you - the American Cancer Society (the "ACS"), whose unfailing commitment to saving lives should be commended - just dropped a new iron curtain over MoCo, a place already grappling with so many arbitrary boundaries. But this one goes right over my house and through the places I spend the most time in, not to mention right across The Pike. I do not quite live in the City of Colesville ("C-Ville," as some people call it), nor do I reside in the great Metropolis of Burtonsville ("B-Ville," as other people call it): I live in between them.

Though my address still reads Silver Spring, I may soon find a trip to the Majestic - or to the Amish Market in Burtonsville, to my job in Rockville (just plain "the 'Ville"), or even to the Giant in Colesville! - a lengthy and arduous border crossing. I'm glad I got my passport photos taken, even though they're at the Moto Photo in Downtown Silver Spring - I mean DTSS. (After this week's Gazette stories on the frustrations of straddling the P.G. County line in Hillandale and Takoma Park, we can only wonder what they'll have to go through now.)

There used to be a time when the Upcounty was up and the Downcounty was down and between them lay a great swath we called the Midcounty. And it was to them I would commute from my own East County, bereft of its own Things To Do other than hanging out in one of our many parking lots. I suppose those days are gone.

Well, SoMoCo Relay for Life 2008 will be held this coming June, and we've got six months to tear this wall down before all those runners knock into it.

Will you join me? (Or are there other nicknames you've been throwing around?)

Check out this fresh Google Map of "SoMoCo", "Downcounty", and all your favorite abbreviated MoCo territories.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

a hasty return to the music hall debate (plus a funny, but unrelated, photo)

WHEN THE KIDS ARE AWAY, THE DRUGGIES WILL PLAY: Galway Elementary in Calverton stands firm on its no-drug policy, even while the school's shut down for renovations.

Okay, so I said that we'd take a few days off from the ongoing Live Nation/I.M.P. spat in Downtown Silver Spring. I wonder if you (The Reader) is starting to think "man, all JUTP writes about now is the Fillmore and the Purple Line! I am so bored!"

Oh, well: Howard County Executive Ken Ulman has thrown his hat into the ongoing controversy over whether or not Montgomery County should consider other companies than international concert promoter Live Nation to run a proposed music hall in the former J.C. Penney building on Colesville Road. The Silver Spring Scene has the full text of Ulman's letter to MoCo Executive Ike Leggett.

Ulman cites how the local roots of Seth Hurwitz - the owner of It's My Party productions and the 9:30 Club - forced him to listen to community concerns when hosting shows at Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia, a venue which had been dying under the management of conglomerate Clear Channel:

what'd Ulman say? and why does one civic leader say Live Nation should be left alone? find out AFTER THE JUMP . . .

"Merriweather’s relationship with the community has not always been perfect. Most notable in Columbia lore is the appearance of the Grateful Dead in the 1980s, whose traveling fan base caused enough havoc in our community to prompt local leaders to ban the band from playing there again. Fears of a similar nature arose in 2006 when Merriweather was scheduled to host the HFStival, a two-day, 50,000-person festival with multiple stages. Seth, however, quickly assuaged these fears, as he worked with community leaders and residents to implement a plan for handling the largest crowds in the pavilion’s history."

While this letter may not force Leggett to reconsider his position, as the Silver Spring Citizens Advisory Board insisted he do two weeks ago, it does give the I.M.P. camp a powerful reference. In the light of Hurwitz' counter-proposal earlier this month, Montgomery County hasn't done enough to assure concerned [tax-paying] residents that the millions of dollars in subsidies for the music hall are going to the right place.

But the County may have good reason to stick to its guns, says one local activist. Over the weekend, Mike Diegel, who we met at a press conference last September announcing the tentative agreement with Live Nation, told JUTP that this isn't the first time Montgomery County's selected a company to do a project without public input. During the 1990's, developer Foulger-Pratt was selected to build the Downtown Silver Spring complex without use of a Request for Proposals, or RFP.

"One of the reasons why [Downtown Silver Spring] worked was because [Doug Duncan, the n-executive] did do that," says Diegel, who served on the Silver Spring Redevelopment Committee from 1996 to 1998 and is currently president of Allied Civic, an umbrella civic group. Previous developers had previously courted the County for the opportunity to redevelop Downtown, but there was no process for them to do it through.

In addition, Diegel suggests, Live Nation's "connections in Hollywood" could give them heft with Discovery Communications and the American Film Institute, both of which are located across the street from the proposed music hall. That could mean programming that a local promoter couldn't deliver.

"I'm fine with what's going on," adds Diegel, a regular patron of the 9:30 Club. "We elected these folks to do this job . . . they knew folks were committed to music Downtown. It's a good fit. I'm looking for a quality operator and quality entertainment."

Monday, November 26, 2007

east county in review: spray paint, punks, and property listings

Wipe the sleep from your eyes: it's time to go back to work - and, while you're at your desk, why not check out the latest happenings in East County?

The Death Star is for sale: are there any appropriate Star Wars references?

PRICE INCLUDES DRUM KIT AND VEGAN RECIPES: For just $899,000, you could have your very own punk house in Downtown Silver Spring. The Death Star, a former landmark of the local music scene which hosted shows until being booted out for redevelopment as a medical office in the summer of 2006, was just put up for sale. Located on Cedar Street a block from the Majestic, the house hasn't exactly been vacant for the past year and a half, but it's unclear what's happening inside. Walking by Saturday afternoon, I saw a middle-aged woman milling about, though I'm not sure what she was doing there. The Death Star's original operations, meanwhile, have moved to the newly-christened Corpse Fortress a few blocks away.

PUTTING THIS STORY TO BED, FOR NOW:It's been a weekend of ups and downs at the 9:30 Club. Sunday, the ongoing controversy stirred by Seth Hurwitz' counter-proposal for the Fillmore music club on Colesville Road made the front page of the Post Style section. But today, any attention that might've gotten has been eclipsed by news that the guitarist of a popular emo band was found dead behind the club Saturday afternoon.

There will be a great crying and gnashing of teeth on Ellsworth Drive in the coming days as the emo kids who've flocked here for the past three years begin to mourn. And in deference to that . . . we're going to put the Fillmore aside for a little while.

what's the most unlikely target for an internationally-known street gang? find out AFTER THE JUMP . . .

MS-13 graffiti covers the side of a veterinary hospital in Wheaton.

VETS TARGETED BY GANGBANGERS: Local resident and infamous photographer Chip Py alerted us to this MS-13 graffiti on the side of the Kindness Animal Hospital at Amherst Avenue and University Boulevard in Wheaton. Based in El Salvador but well-established in the D.C. area, MS-13 has been tagging various empty walls around East County for a few years now. There isn't too much of a story here - except that, if I were the owner of this veterinary hospital, I'd be disappointed that the taggers couldn't been a little more creative.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

what i'm thankful for (and update on the ongoing music hall controversy!)

As we approach Thanksgiving - a time of food, football, and family drama - it's easy to forget the reason why this holiday was invented by the department stores in order to draw the Christmas season as far into the year as possible. Thus, I give you a list of things I'm thankful for, in the hopes of raising your holiday awareness:

- That when you're crossing Georgia Avenue, it's always okay to leave your mother on the other side. ["Residents lobby for parkland on Georgia Avenue", The Gazette]

- That neighbors in East Silver Spring can agree on something, even if it's how much they can be bought for. ["Fenton Village neighbors join up to offer properties", The Gazette]

- That in College Park, our school's president cares more about his own "legacy" than if students can actually get to campus. ["Seeing Purple," The Diamondback]

- And, finally, that Silver Spring residents have begun to question why Ike Leggett's been so stubborn about entertaining Seth Hurwitz' counter-proposal for the music hall on Colesville Road.

The Silver Spring Scene has a copy of Leggett's response to a letter sent by the Silver Spring Citizens Advisory Board last week begging him to open up talks between the County and current beau Live Nation to other promoters, like Hurwitz, owner of the 9:30 Club.

From the letter:

"For obvious reasons, it would be inappropriate for the County to enter into an agreement with one operator only to subsequently decide to engage in simultaneous negotiations with a second proposed operator that has the benefit of seeing and undercutting the signed terms of its competitor’s agreement . . . Had the County originally signed a Letter of Intent with the 9:30 Club, or any other operator, and a third party inserted itself into the negotiations at the last minute by cherry-picking an existing proposal, my attitude would be the same."

"That they're calling our attempt 'cherry-picking' is inaccurate, especially since our first attempt to speak with the County was before any announcement," says Audrey Schaefer, communications director for Hurwitz' It's My Party Productions, in a phone interview with JUTP. "We're not saying 'stop talking to them.' We could never do that. We're saying 'open the process up.'"

Schaefer contends that I.M.P. first approached the County two days before plans were announced to open a Fillmore music club at the site September 26th. "He's saying it's too late, but indeed legally, it's not," she adds, noting that Leggett fails to mention that his agreement with Live Nation was, in fact, non-binding.

Is the community overreacting - or could there be something going on behind the scenes that he's not letting us in on? Leggett says he has the patience of Job, but why is he being so stubborn?

Monday, November 19, 2007

valerie ervin responds to I.M.P. proposal for music hall

WHAT'S UP THE PIKE: Horses let loose on Ellsworth during Thanksgiving parade (photos!); Silver Spring, Singular named "blogger of the month".

Two weeks after local promoter Seth Hurwitz challenged Live Nation for the chance to open a music hall Downtown, County Councilwoman Valerie Ervin (D-Silver Spring) responds with a letter she's sending out to interested parties.

Hurwitz - the owner of It's My Party (I.M.P.) productions - along with communications director Audrey Schaefer and their lawyer have been visiting County Councilmembers with their counter-proposal for the J.C. Penney building on Colesville Road.

The letter reads:

Thank you for your letter advocating for the County to enter into negotiations with IMP. I reviewed your letter when it was received by my office. I was disappointed that the County was not able to complete a deal with the Birchmere; however, I remain committed to advocating for a live music venue in downtown Silver Spring because it would build upon the success of the Arts and Entertainment District. I continue to believe that the former JC Penney site is an ideal location for a live music venue because it is not adjacent to residential properties, additional parking may be constructed, and the North side of Colesville Road needs a significant project to jumpstart its revitalization.

Negotiations on economic development contracts are an Executive Branch function. I have discussed this issue with the County Executive, and his position continues to be that until negotiations with Live Nation have been concluded there will be no negotiations with any other parties for a music venue. Once an agreement is reached, the County Executive will forward the proposal to the Council where it will be fully reviewed. As a Councilmember, I cannot intervene in contract negotiations; however, I have met with both Live Nation and IMG [sic] representatives. At this stage in the process, the County is obligated to negotiate in good faith with Live Nation and the Lee Development Group.

Thank you for the time you have devoted to this issue, and I appreciate hearing your concerns. Your views are important to me and help me in my deliberations on matters that affect the residents of District 5.


Valerie Ervin


what do horses have against downtown silver spring?

WHAT'S UP THE PIKE: New Growth Policy includes transit access in new development reviews; the Post profiles School of Rock on Colesville Road.

You'll definitely want to check out this and other photos of last Saturday's Thanksgiving Parade taken by Chip Py. A local photographer, Py's best known for his run-in with Downtown Silver Spring security last summer, which led to a protest for photo rights on the 4th of July.

Is it more than a little strange that mounted cops would let their horses pee wherever they are . . . especially in the center of the revitalized Downtown? What were they thinking?

Sunday, November 18, 2007

i'm embarassed to say this, but i just realized what the "singular" refers to (updated)

No one should be surprised that Marc Fisher's "Blogger of the Month" award goes to Silver Spring, Singular, one of the founders of the Silver Spring blogosphere. I haven't always agreed with Sligo - or Karl, as we have discovered his true identity to be - but I know I wouldn't be writing today if it wasn't for him and the Silver Spring Scene, which began around the same time nearly two years ago.

Congratulations, Sligo! I hope that the Singular will live on to see the blogging community it's created flourish just as our downtown has.

UPDATE: Our sources tell us the Scene started two months before the Singular did, meaning that the title of "great-grandaddy" may be contested . . .

Thursday, November 15, 2007

east county in review: competing with the montgomery extra edition

The Anchor Inn in Wheaton may be gone, but its sign at Georgia and University lives on.

November is a depressing month, save for the beauty of the changing leaves, which I have not yet captured on film [or memory card]. Instead, we have a kind of change most people find harder to swallow: sweet, sweet progress.

ANCHORS AWAY? The Anchor Inn was razed last year to make way for a shitty strip mall, but signs for the seafood restaurant - a Wheaton institution for several decades - remain at the corner of Georgia and University. The shrimp may be gone, but can the sign be kept? Surely something can be done in the name of Historic Preservation.

DON'T ROLL IT UP: While MoCo deliberates over construction bids, "the Turf" will remain in Downtown Silver Spring until at least next spring. To some a symbol of how "fake" the revitalizated business district is, "the Turf" has become a beloved hangout for people throughout the region. I won't let anyone forget that the Post's Marc Fisher called it the "venue for some of the best people-watching in the region."

FINALLY: After eleven months of heated discussion, the County Council finally approved its Annual Growth Policy Tuesday.

When I testified before the Council during their Annual Growth Policy hearings last June, I remember George Leventhal (D-At Large) asking me, "So, Dan, what do you think about the impact fees? Are you hip to that?" (As I was the youngest person in the room, I imagine Leventhal was trying to find a way to level with me, and I can't fault him for it.)

Am I hip to impact fees? Sure, but they aren't the only thing that matters.

so much more AFTER THE JUMP . . .

Traffic at New Hampshire Avenue and Adelphi Road near Hillandale. The Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, in the District, can be seen in the background.

As guest blogger Adam Pagnucco explained last spring, this year's AGP aimed to curb development and fund new infrastructure by increasing the fees developers have to pay to build in the County. These so-called "impact fees" have been criticized as making housing more expensive in a place where the average new home costs over a million dollars.

But a look at this synopsis of the policy from the Post explains what else the County's gunning for. Seeking ways to limit parking in new developments, thus getting people out of their cars. Where do they go instead? Developers will be required to incorporate shuttle buses or other alternate means of transportation for residents. Considering the effects of a development on traffic over a larger area - a step towards recognizing how different communities interact with each other within the County and outside of it.

Everything comes at a cost, and the new AGP recognizes that. While the policy takes a progressive approach towards traffic management, it doesn't do as much to solve the affordable housing issue. It looks like we'll still have something to discuss next year.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

whose party is it? an interview with seth hurwitz

WHAT'S UP THE PIKE: Springbrook High student dies in car crash on Bonifant Road Sunday night.

Promoter Seth Hurwitz, owner of the 9:30 Club (pictured), wants Montgomery County to consider him for operating a proposed music hall in Downtown Silver Spring. (Photo courtesy of CoolTown Studios.)

Silver Spring may bustle like a city, but its location outside of the District makes it completely different to run a music club than one downtown, says Seth Hurwitz, owner of the 9:30 Club and It's My Party productions.

In a phone interview with Just Up The Pike yesterday, the Bethesda-based promoter explained why he thinks it's high time the County reconsiders their plans to open a Fillmore music hall on Colesville Road with national promoter Live Nation - and what we might expect to hear from his club if it opens.

"I would think they want all their options laid out for them," says Hurwitz of Ike Leggett's office, who soundly rejected his counter-proposal for the planned music club last week. In exchange for a lower taxpayer subsidy, Hurwitz would lease the former J.C. Penney building for twice the rate currently offered by Live Nation.

When Leggett turned him down, Hurwitz - along with communications director Audrey Schaefer and their lawyer - visited County Council members to present their case. "They all look at it and think ‘this is kind of a nobrainer,’ but we have to deal with Ike," Hurwitz states. "I haven’t met with one [councilmember] that looked at it and didn’t think it was a fantastic offer."

so much more AFTER THE JUMP . . .

Montgomery County has signed a letter of intent with international concert promoter Live Nation to open a Fillmore music club in the J.C. Penney building on Colesville Road.

County Councilman George Leventhal (D-At Large) heard the I.M.P. proposal, but wants to reserve his judgment for later, he said in an e-mail. "The County Executive's position remains that negotiations with Live Nation have been concluded," says Leventhal. "I do not think that County Councilmembers should act like nine separate Directors of Economic Development and negotiate our own deals on behalf of the county."

Leventhal, a Takoma Park resident, has been watching the process closely. "I was among those who were enthusiastic at the prospect of the Birchmere locating there and disappointed when that deal was not consummated," he laments. "I do not consider the case closed and have yet to commit my support to any agreement with any operator."

Live Nation, currently slated to open a Fillmore music club in the contested space, has come under fire from residents of Downtown's surrounding neighborhoods concerned about concertgoers concerned overwhelming Downtown. The forced closing of a weekly go-go event at the Boys and Girls Club in Four Corners following neighborhood complaints suggests that whoever operates the venue would have a lot of community outreach to do.

"We have a long history of 'if there’s a complaint from the community, we’ll call the meeting,'" Hurwitz says, noting that he only received two complaints from neighbors of last summer's Warped Tour stop at Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia - and took care of both of them. "I like to meet face-to-face and see what the issues are."

Over the past few months, most local discussion has revolved around what kind of music the club would offer. Hurwitz' goal is to bring a different mix of acts than normally found at the 9:30 Club, he explains.

"My idea is to just put the cream of the crop there . . . to put the kind of shows that we know are going to sell out," says Hurwitz. "More mainstream music than we’d have at the 9:30 Club. Just try to mix it up, give people a different place to go to."

"Mainstream" offerings - which, depending on your musical tastes, could be a good or a bad thing - suggest a different crowd would be attending shows at a suburban club than at one in the District. At a blogger briefing earlier this fall, Ike Leggett expressed his interest in having a variety of genres represented at the new venue so to attract as many visitors as possible.

"The only reasoning is that a lot of those [mainstream] acts is that 'They’re really good but people won’t go all the way downtown to see them'," says Hurwitz. "There certainly has to be a different demographic for Downtown Silver Spring than there is for D.C. and I’ll have to look into it."

"All the bands that come through want to play the 9:30 and we’re bursting at the seams," he adds. "It’ll be pretty easy for me to take the people that we’re working with already and put them at a different location . . . it’ll be easy for me because I have the luxury of picking a venue to put them in."

Having put on his first shows as a student at Churchill High in the early 1980's, Hurwitz feels more than confident that his track record should be enough to win the Council and local residents over. "It seems to be what I’m supposed to do in life," he says. "I like to entertain people. I like to walk around and watch people have a good time at a show. That’s what I like to do, more than watching the bands."

"I want people to say a year after this opens, 'Wow, they did a really good job with this place.'"

Friday, November 9, 2007

9:30 club owner hurwitz fires back at leggett (to be updated)

WHAT'S UP THE PIKE: ICC construction given the go-ahead; Park and Planning considers cell phone tower at Key Middle School; lack of business forces art store Alchemy to close down; JUTP in Express "Blog Log" (see page 40).

County Executive Ike Leggett announces the signing of a letter of intent between Montgomery County and Live Nation to open a music hall in Downtown Silver Spring last September.

The local blogosphere has been churning with news that local music promoter and 9:30 Club owner Seth Hurwitz wants to take on Live Nation for the chance to run the proposed music hall in Downtown Silver Spring. Thayer Avenue threw his two cents into the debate, insisting "if Seth wants to do this, he better do it right." That is, if Silver Spring wants to have a third suitor planning a club for the former J.C. Penney building on Colesville Road, there had better be a good reason.

In a community historically known for its liberal, anti-corporate politics (a description more often given to Takoma Park but still fitting for Silver Spring), the County's endorsement of a multi-national corporation over a local businessman for a project as significant as a music hall comes off as more than a little sketchy. Perhaps the burden shouldn't be on the Bethesda-based Hurwitz to show he can do a better job than Live Nation - who has signed a non-binding letter of intent with the County to open a Fillmore music club on Colesville Road - but it is now.

At the Motion City Soundtrack show at the 9:30 Club last night, Just Up The Pike spoke to sources close to the Hurwitz camp suggesting they won't be backing down any time soon. On Wednesday, Hurwitz' It's My Party Productions sent another letter to Ike Leggett's office, who had tersely rejected his counter-offer to open a club in the former J.C. Penney building on Colesville Road. We haven't seen Hurwitz' latest letter yet, but we've been told that Hurwitz and his lawyers have visited with seven out of nine County Council members to discuss the matter.

so much more AFTER THE JUMP . . .

The main question is: was it right for Montgomery County to select a vendor for the music hall site after the Birchmere plans fell through without putting out a Request For Proposals, as is usually the case? And why has Ike Leggett, who boasts of having "the patience of Job," been so quick to push for Live Nation while not seeking any alternatives?

It's more than a little ironic that Montgomery County, famous for what some call "paralysis by analysis," could make a decision so quickly - and hold fast to it. Some may call it fortitude, but others may call it suspect.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

late to the party?

WHAT'S UP THE PIKE: Hoffmann beats Powell in Rockville mayor's race; ICC construction halted.

YOUR NAME HERE: 9:30 Club owner Seth Hurwitz wants to take on national promoter Live Nation for the rights to develop a music club in the old J.C. Penney building in Downtown Silver Spring.

Let's say you're Ike Leggett, and you're trying to get this music hall built in Silver Spring. You've made your demands clear and found a potential suitor; you've held a swanky press conference to announce the wedding; and you've even sparked the ire of a few neighbors who, like any meddlesome relatives, are nitpicky about the new beau.

It appears everything's in place, but someone has to crash the wedding. Enter Seth Hurwitz, owner of It's My Party Productions and operator of the venerable 9:30 Club. A Bethesda resident, he's more than irritated that MoCo would spurn him for Live Nation, an international concert promoter, to run the proposed music hall in Downtown Silver Spring. He even sent Ike Leggett and the County Council a letter (read a recap at the Scene; check out the actual thing at the Singular) asking him to reconsider:
"We believe your reputation as a fair-minded decision maker entrusted with carefully spending taxpayer dollars suggests you would want to be apprised of an industry-leading, locally based company that shares your goals of making that property a luminous destination for music lovers, a magnet for other businesses, and the pride of Montgomery County . . . Simply put, I.M.P. can provide a superior music venue at a dramatically reduced cost to the taxpayer."

so much more AFTER THE JUMP . . .

Not-quite-Christian, not-quite-punk band Anberlin plays at the 9:30 Club, owned by Seth Hurwitz, last spring. (They will be returning tonight with Motion City Soundtrack and Mae, and yours truly is attending.)

Hurwitz' deal (which is more carefully examined at the Scene) gives the County a 1,400-seat venue featuring "national acts specifically selected for the Montgomery County audience" for a subsidy of $6 million, compared to Live Nation's current arrangement of $8 million. In addition, Hurwitz would pay $15,000 a month in rent to the County for the site, twice as much offered by Live Nation.

Local residents frustrated by the idea of taxpayer dollars going to a multi-national corporation would be tickled pink by a local business trying as hard as possible not to screw MoCo over. But, of course, Leggett and the County made their decision, and there's no going back.

Leggett's response was terse, and bold fonts were used liberally:

" . . . Montgomery County has negotiated a Letter of Intent with Live Nation and will not negotiate with other parties. Montgomery County has an obligation under the law to negotiate in good faith and we intend to follow the letter and the spirit of this agreement."

As the traditional wedding rites go, "Speak now or forever hold your peace." Hurwitz' chance to throw his hat into the Silver Spring music hall ring would have been after the Birchmere plans fell through last July. That is if the County had put a Request For Proposals out - and they didn't. It was, after all, only a couple of days before rumors of the Fillmore's entree into the scene surfaced.

Theoretically, a local music scene is composed of, well, local music. And you can't get more local than Seth Hurwitz and I.M.P. Productions. (Of course, there are a slew of promoters and even smaller clubs in the D.C. area, but none that could seemingly throw money around the way Hurwitz can.) Montgomery County's already made the vows; Hurwitz may have proved his ability to put on a good show, but the burden's on him to prove to MoCo that it's worth leaving Live Nation at the altar.

On the other hand, residents are already wary of Live Nation. Perhaps the burden is on Montgomery County to prove to taxpayers that they're not getting shafted.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

when the nation's best schools just aren't good enough . . .

WHAT'S UP THE PIKE: Neighborhood outside Downtown Silver Spring could be bought out; Old men determine fate of backyards in ICC's path; Blake football player knifes opponent after game.

Riding the bus to Bethesda - be it a Metrobus or a plain old school bus - from points east is always quite a task. For starters, when you're sitting at East-West Highway and Grubb Road, which divides the Silver Spring and Bethesda zip codes, you have to consider that the same three-bedroom Colonial on the Silver Spring side is probably worth half as much as its neighbor across the street. And when you cross Rock Creek Park and see the giant houses looming over you, it's hard not to feel insignificant - dare I say less of a person than whomever must live there.

I, for one, am glad that our wealthier friends in Bethesda and Chevy Chase understand our pain, as witnessed in these comments from a Chevy Chase resident about public schools from the Post Magazine's yearly "Education Review":
"What I really object to," he said passionately, "is that they bus in all those black kids from Silver Spring. They bring them into this neighborhood, to see all of our big houses, exposing them to things they are never going to have. I just don't see the point."
Is that why Purple Line opponents in Chevy Chase want the trains to run underground? (We're not pointing any fingers at you, Pam Browning, but your neighbors suddenly look very suspect.)

so much more AFTER THE JUMP . . .

I was more than a little shocked by the article in question, "Unreal World" - which came out in support of public schools as a "counterculture" move in super-wealthy Montgomery County and its companion piece, "Learning to Conform," which argues the very same public schools are "snuffing out [students'] curiosity."

This is all, of course, from the perspective of writers living in Chevy Chase and Garrett Park, two very small, very cute, and ridiculously isolated parts of Montgomery County. At least they didn't dredge up the age-old fear that you'll get cut in public schools, even though it did happen this week: A Magruder High football player was stabbed by a member of the visiting team after last Friday's game. The opponents was Blake, my alma mater.

As a product of Blake and the Montgomery County Public Schools, I'd like to think I got an excellent, stabbing-free education, and I did. I feel that private schools are a waste of money in MoCo, but I nearly landed in one myself: my mother, having just moved to Downtown Silver Spring fifteen years ago, was encouraged by her sisters to put me in a Catholic school in the District, where I lasted exactly two days. From there, it was public school all the way.

(You say the public schools stifle curiosity? At least capital punishment wasn't allowed. I can still feel the harsh sting of the ruler against my neck from nuns irritated that I wouldn't stop laughing in class because the kid a row behind wouldn't stop tickling me.)

As much as I love the Post, it's a little frustrating that their "Education Review" would focus on the attitudes of people in a very small portion of the metropolitan area. (I never assumed that journalism was a high-paying job, but if these writers can all afford to live in Chevy Chase, perhaps architecture was the wrong field of study for me.) I sincerely doubt that most MoCo residents, whether or not they had the choice to put their kid in a private school, would consider public schools to be an outrageous proposition.

A school is a community insititution; the health of one is directly linked to the health of the other, and it's worthwhile to invest in both.
Diversity is a concept beaten a little too hard into the minds of MCPS students, but that doesn't lessen its significance to a child's development or to the state of Montgomery County in the 21st century. I find there is nothing quite like riding a J4 Metrobus filled with everyone from line cooks to interns as we pass those large houses overlooking Rock Creek Park. It is always disappointing to remember, though, that inside, the residents may be looking down on you.

Friday, November 2, 2007

survey examines future of burtonsville's center

Scenic Route 198, lined by telephone poles and strip malls, could become home to a new "retail village" for Burtonsville. No one's quite sure what that means.

Love it or hate it, Burtonsville's always felt like the middle of nowhere, if only one that was accessible by Interstate highway. And it might stay like that, according to the recently-released Burtonsville Market Study and Consumer Shopping Survey, done by a consulting firm for the Montgomery County Department of Economic Development and discussed in this week's Gazette.

The study, which analyzed local shopping patterns to create a plan for Burtonsville's economic growth, suggests that the crossroads of 29 and 198 would be best served by a "retail village" with a village green - as opposed to a "town center," which they fear is just too large for such a small, um, town:
"The use of the term “Town Center” or “town center” has been a confusing piece in the public discussions in Burtonsville . . . It is important that someone explain the concept of the Town Center and develop consensus on what the term means and in what ways it could apply."
The use of jargon like "town center" and "retail village" poisons the discussion of what places should actually feel like. (Case in point: the difference between "Downtown Silver Spring" and Downtown Silver Spring.) Nonetheless, it's important that people begin seriously talking about how they'd like this community to develop. This may not be the next Downtown Silver Spring - after all, should it? - but Burtonsville could use a heart to match its soul.

so much more AFTER THE JUMP . . .

IS THIS A "RETAIL VILLAGE"? The WesTech Village Corner in Calverton is one of many new shopping centers taking business away from Burtonsville's town center.

As the study points out, Burtonsville's convenient to a lot of current job and retail centers - Spring, Columbia, Laurel - that eat away at its market share. And future developments like Maple Lawn in Howard County, Konterra south of Laurel and the LifeSci Village on Cherry Hill Road recently mentioned in the Post will only draw more business from Burtonsville, which has been suffering ever since the Route 29 bypass opened two years ago.

But if there is a "village green" as the study recommends, will there be a reason to go there if there's nothing else around it? "The Turf" in Downtown Silver Spring has given people an alternative to shopping - but Kughn Park, which preceded it, didn't attract many visitors because it was surrounded by vacant fields. No green can make a village out of the current landscape of strip malls, highways and parking lots.

A good model might be the villages of Ashton and Sandy Spring a few miles to the west. In June, we looked at how Ashton's trying to create a commons of its own with the Ashton Meeting Place, a very small mixed-use development at New Hampshire Avenue and Route 108. By locating housing, offices and retail adjacent to a village green, the Meeting Place gives Ashton residents a variety of reasons to visit. They may not always be shopping, but given Burtonsville's shrinking retail market, that may not be an issue.

Burtonsville enjoys a strong sense of community - from the BVFD Summer Carnival and Burtonsville Day every September to the civic group Citizens Involved, which for the past year has been giving the area a voice it's never had before - and, of course, the Dutch Country Farmers Market, a regional institution that could be lost. The key now is to translate that psychological community into a physical structure.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

when done right, english names can make your subdivision sound classy

WHAT'S UP THE PIKE: Vote delayed on Takoma Metro redevelopment; the ICC gets cozy with the environment; Chevy Chase to open new branch at National Labor College.

Anglophiles throughout East County are incensed by this misspelled street sign outside a new townhouse development.

At Just Up The Pike, there's nothing we love more than a good typo, especially one that makes it to a street sign. Hot on the heels of this sign outside a Noorwood Road development appears a new specimen adjacent to some new townhomes on University Boulevard in Franklin Knolls. The development, called Buckingham Terrace, attempts to conjure up images of Old Britain, a place we're sure many Silver Springers wax nostalgic for. Unfortunately, someone failed to check the proper spelling for new street Gloucester Knoll Drive.

Is this really news? Perhaps not. Come back tomorrow for our take on the new Burtonsville Economic Development survey.