Wednesday, January 30, 2008

red-faced, leggett calls on developers for live nation support

WHAT'S UP THE PIKE: County kindergartners reading books like lives depend on it; Slowing economy could mean death of Blair magnet program; Planning Board approves so-called "Galaxy II" project on 13th Street.

The Lee Development Group plans a large mixed-use project along Colesville Road, which will include the new Fillmore music hall.

As the ongoing Fillmore flap continues, Ike Leggett is determined to save face. Yesterday, County Councilmembers Roger Berliner (D-At Large), Marc Elrich (D-At Large) and Marilyn Praisner (D-Calverton) lambasted Leggett's office for not seeking other bidders for a proposed music hall on Colesville Road. And despite the County's budget crisis, Leggett wants people to know that his decision to throw $8 million at the club (not Live Nation, but the hall it will manage) was a good one.

Hence this letter from Foulger-Pratt, developers of the Downtown Silver Spring complex (a.k.a. Ellsworth Drive or "The Promenade"), sent to the entire County Council this morning expressing their support for Live Nation. Note how Bryant Foulger (the principal of Foulger-Pratt) says the proposed mixed-use development which includes the Fillmore will improve the "poorly-maintained buildings" along Colesville - many of which house thriving, if not at least existing, buildings - that "reflect poorly on the community."

The letter follows AFTER THE JUMP . . .

I am writing on behalf of PFA LLC, the real estate development partnership consisting of the Foulger-Pratt Companies, the Peterson Companies, and Argo Investment. We are very proud of our role in working with Montgomery County as the developers of the Downtown Silver Spring Redevelopment Project because of the wonderful and remarkable impact that project has had on the entire Silver Spring community. Both the private and public sectors have invested a tremendous amount of time, capital, and creative thought and energy to make Silver Spring what it is today. The project’s dynamic mix of uses, tenants, public spaces and amenities, and plentiful public parking have created a critical mass that draws from the entire region. Such a project would never have happened had it not been for the County’s and State’s commitment and support of the project.

While much has been done and much accomplished, there remains more to do. PFA and County leadership have always represented that Downtown Silver Spring is just the beginning of a community revitalization process. There still remain numerous vacant or poorly-maintained buildings in the nearby vicinity that reflect poorly on the community, stifle the re-tenanting of those spaces, thus delaying and impeding the continued revitalization of Silver Spring.

We are very pleased to hear that the County has entered into an agreement with Live Nation to come to Silver Spring for several important reasons. First, Live Nation is an iconic presence in the music and entertainment world and it brings that notoriety with it to Silver Spring. Its relation with and ability to draw a wide array of musical talent and performers to Silver Spring will further enhance the already established Arts and Entertainment District designation that Silver Spring has been granted. Second, Live Nation will complement and strengthen the other high quality entertainment venues in Silver Spring, including the AFI Silver Theatre and Cultural Center, the Roundhouse Theatre, and the Majestic, our 20-screen first-run cinema. Third, Live Nation will do much to improve the appearance of Colesville Road, one of our primary gateways into Silver Spring. Its presence will be particularly important to AFI, whose beautiful restored building across Colesville Road has faced run-down, poorly maintained buildings for far too long. And last, Live Nation will further the redevelopment of Silver Spring by jump-starting redevelopment of the Lee family’s important assemblage that fronts on Georgia Avenue, Colesville Road, and Fenton Street, thus having the potential of greatly affecting and strengthening continued redevelopment efforts in Silver Spring.

We applaud the County and State and its leaders for their vision and commitment to making our community a better place to live, work, and play. The redevelopment of Silver Spring is a story that has been written of and spoken of throughout the country. Live Nation will add to the wonderful reality that is Silver Spring. Let the music play!

Bryant F. Foulger
Foulger-Pratt Companies

Monday, January 28, 2008

comedy show seeks to uplift local scene, farts

WHAT'S UP THE PIKE: Facebook activists seek to "reclaim our mall" with petition for Dillard's, a southern department store chain, to replace recently-departed IFL at Wheaton Plaza.

An "AMAZING" comic promoting "The Awesome Room," a monthly comedy show making its debut at McGinty's this week.

Silver Spring has a long and proud tradition of comic legends: Ben Stein (who I walked past outside Blair High School once, with his tennis shoes and all), Dave Chappelle (a proud graduate of Woodlin Elementary School) and Lewis Black (who I don't have any anecdotes about). And if his sketches are any indication, Silver Spring-based comic Jake Young might deliver some serious funny to the masses later this week.

Young sent JUTP a press release detailing his new, monthly comedy show, which debuts at McGinty's Public House on Ellsworth this Thursday night at 9. "The Awesome Room" is based on the idea that "the traditional standup show format is stale and confining to young performers," writes Young. A slate of "local vanguards" and "underground phenoms" including Jordan Owens and Seaton Smith will be on stage, along with a "secret musical guest." Judging by what you can find of the scheduled performers on YouTube, I don't know if this is really the "vanguard" of comedy, but some of it was kind of funny. Kind of.

In an interview with DC Comedy: 4 Now, a local comedy blog, Jake Young says he's doing "The Awesome Room" not for himself, but for the community. "My hope is that if the scene does better, than my opportunities will be similarly uplifted," scribbles Young on a scrap of paper (which is how he does the interview). "Also, farts."

So: Thursday night. You're probably free. (I'm not; I have work.) Check out for more information.

frequently asked questions

A long-overdue list of questions and invitations to the bar I've received since beginning this blog six years ago. Feel free to submit more if you have any.

1) What is this called? Up The Pike?

One day, I will think of a less confusing name. In the meantime, this is Just Up The Pike. I lived "up the pike" - meaning Columbia Pike, or Route 29 - from Downtown Silver Spring, but not too far up, if you will. Thus, "Just Up The Pike."

2) What do you . . . do?

I write. About our elected officials. About development and traffic. About our schools. About local arts and music, and occasionally food. Anything and everything affecting East County.

Are you having a community meeting? An open house? Are you running for office? Starting a business? Do you have any tips or story ideas? Would you like to write guest posts? Let me know. I'm open to anything. E-mail me at justupthepike at gmail dot com.

Just Up The Pike is updated a few times each week, though that schedule might occasionally give way to work, a social life and, of course, sleep.

3) How did you get started?

Blogs beget other blogs. I started by reading The Silver Spring Scene and Silver Spring, Singular in early 2006. Honestly, back then I thought the idea of a Silver Spring blog was kind of silly. I was working at an architecture firm in Bethesda that summer with a lengthy, two-bus commute. When the bridge on Route 29 flooded that June, I found myself without a way to work. That's when I started thinking about all of the missed connections in East County - not just the roads, but mentally. How often do you hear about the east side? Not much, and the things you hear are rarely good. Suddenly, a Silver Spring blog didn't seem so silly after all. You know the rest . . .

4) Say, we should have a drink sometime!

Yes! As of April 2009, that is totally possible.

5) Are you on Facebook? Twitter? MySpace?

Facebook: Yes. Become a fan! Twitter: Follow me! Flickr: Ditto! MySpace: Too creepy.

6) What do you do for a living?

In May 2009, I graduated from the University of Maryland-College Park with a double degree in Architecture and English. After that, I worked for Montgomery County Councilmember George Leventhal. And in May 2012, I graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with a master's degree in City Planning and a concentration in Urban Design. Currently, I'm looking for work. If you'd like to know more, check out my LinkedIn page.

7) Where do you live?

Save for two years at school in Philadelphia, I've lived in the D.C. area my entire life. I've had brief stays in Suitland, Germantown, College Park and Petworth, but spent most of my childhood in downtown Silver Spring. I currently live with my parents and brother in Calverton, right off of Columbia Pike.

8) Can't anyone start a blog?

Yes. And I invite you to start your own by creating an account at

Anyone can write a blog. That means I can - we can - write about issues and places that aren't being noticed by local newspapers, TV stations, and so on. And we can elaborate on what local news outlets are covering without worrying about space or time limits. And I could be anyone. I'm not an elected official or a developer. I'm just someone living in your community writing about what's happening here.

Friday, January 25, 2008

will purple line join silver line on death row?

WHAT'S UP THE PIKE: Councilwoman Valerie Ervin details achievements in winter newsletter; Woodside residents to lead walk of future Capitol Crescent Trail next Saturday.

Rendering of a proposed Silver Line station in Tysons Corner. Courtesy of the Dulles Corridor Metrorail Project.
"We're in the age of Metro now. I think people get it . . . you don't really have to sell people on the Metro. You have to find the funding." - Congressman Al Wynn (D-Dist. 4), in a JUTP interview last June
The Bush administration has put the kibosh on Metro's Silver Line - which, as you may know, would go out to Tysons Corner, Dulles Airport and beyond. Citing the project's cost-effectiveness and Metro's currently deteriorating service, the Federal Transit Administration refused Virginia's request for $900 million in funding, despite years of planning and cost-trimming to meet their demands.

I am heartbroken. It's like high school all over again - I try to win a girl's heart with flowers, candy and sappy poems only to find out she wasn't really interested, now if not ever. Secretary of Transportation Mary Peters, you are a maneater.

So far, the Purple Line has had to battle with an exclusive country club, a state university, and a gauntlet of civic associations from Bethesda to Takoma Park. If a line connecting the D.C. region to its second-largest job center and its major international airport can't pass muster with The Feds . . . will the Purple Line do any better when it goes up for review in a couple of years?

Maybe. At $1.6 billion, the Purple Line's price tag is roughly a third of the Silver Line's estimated $5 billion cost. With as many as 47,000 expected daily riders (warning! PDF file) by 2035 - compared to 91,200 daily riders on the Silver by 2025 - the Purple Line has a lower cost-per-rider, making it a stronger investment for the perenially cash-strapped FTA.

Peters, who with FTA chief James Simpson holds the purse-strings, recently said she believes the federal government shouldn't be paying for highways and transit - if only because some of the things they spend money on, like bike trails, "really are not transportation" to her. Perhaps major transit projects like the Silver Line and Purple Line should be designed and built by the private sector if our national transportation policy is being shaped by somebody so bull-headed.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

essay time: the "car corral"

WHAT'S UP THE PIKE: Sandy Spring residents take road dispute to elected officials' homes; Chevy Chase resurrects "Purple Line Loop"; Glenmont redevelopment goes back to drawing board; D.C. bar owner calls for Fillmore boycott in e-mail.

Cars back up onto Old Columbia Pike at the Fairland Center, currently housing my brother's elementary school.

The most exciting part about Winter Break at home has been picking my little brother up from elementary school. His school is being "modernized" this year - MCPS has always felt that "renovation" was not grandiose enough a term - and they have taken up the Fairland Center on Old Columbia Pike until May.

Built in the 1930's and expanded in the 1960's, the Fairland Center looks like a sort of Franken-school, the child of Old Blair High and a ranch house. Since it closed almost thirty years ago, it's served as a "holding center" for schools under renovation, and each year a new crop of parents will raise fears that their kids will wander off the playground and to their deaths in the path of an eighteen-wheeler on The Pike. In response, a tall chain-link fence was wrapped around the playground to prevent this from happening.

At 3:20, ten minutes before school lets out, the playground becomes a sort of "car corral" for all the parents too lazy to get out and walk their kids to the parking lot. As it remains chained-up during the day, opening the corral is always a big production. A sign in a window facing the playground, perhaps left over from the school that was here before, ominously calls it the "Parent Reunification Site," as if this was a work camp. Cars back up onto Old Columbia Pike - sometimes in both directions, though left turns are forbidden - waiting for some administrator to appear, set down a series of little orange cones to guide the cattle through the turn-around. Unceremoniously, she opens the gate, and the S.U.V.s and minivans file through eagerly.

so much more AFTER THE JUMP . . .

The daily parade of S.U.V.s and minivans through the car corral after school.

I am one of a handful of people who actually parks my vehicle and walks over to the school to collect a kid. This happened a lot more at the old school, and my mother would socialize with the other parents and grandparents in the lobby while waiting for their kids to be released. One elderly gentleman had a habit of going to use the girls' bathroom while waiting for his grandson; until the move, no amount of complaints from the other parents and the administration would stop him. (Apparently, he would feign not being able to speak English to get away with it.) Today, he waits with me outside the school, and I am glad to have the company.

At 3:30, class is dismissed, and the future of America bounds out of the school. A woman in a beret stops each kid before running into the corral. "Which car is yours?" she asks. "The brown one," the child will say, and he is allowed to reunite with his parent, guardian or babysitter. The kids all look the same to me - black, white, brown, whatever. I guess that means I'm colorblind. I have to catch myself a couple of times before moving towards the door, expecting to see my brother shuffling across the pavement when, in fact, it is not.

It takes far too long to get out of the parking lot, because the line for the car corral - which by 3:35 still pokes out onto Old Columbia Pike - is blocking the only way out. I don't want to curse out the parents in the elementary school parking lot. Something tells me it's not a classy thing to do. So I wait, and mutter under my breath in the hopes my brother hasn't already heard these words before (but he has anyway, thanks to his classmates), and eventually we make that right turn out into the real world and back home.

The old school, in the midst of "modernization," looks like an ancient ruin, windows knocked out and walls intentionally crumbling. But when I drive past it at night, the inside is lit up (to keep trespassers from tripping and suing MCPS for negligence, I like to think), and it looks kind of beautiful. I will stick with the Fairland Center and the car corral for now.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

east county in review: nothing to do with east county edition

LIQUIDATED! International Furniture Liquidators has been given the boot from "Wheaton Mall", or so says this sign in the median of Veirs Mill Road.

- Just Up The Pike has a guest post on The Abundant Artist, written by Portland-based actor and blogger Cory, about the Death Star and gentrification in Silver Spring. Cory, who writes extensively on artist housing throughout the country, invited me to write a piece after reading last month's brief series on Arts District Hyattsville.

- After three years of selling cheap, strange, or cheap and strange furniture in the former Hecht's at Wheaton Plaza, IFL may be leaving the mall in favor of . . . something else. I saw this sign on Veirs Mill Road while going to work in Rockville last weekend. Any store with the word "liquidation" in its name likes to use the "store closing" angle to drag in customers who'd otherwise assume they had a lifetime of bargain-basement furniture ahead of them. (This is not unlike the tactic used by the rug store at Colesville and Fenton - currently American Apparel - whose windows proclaimed "STORE CLOSING" for several years before they actually did.)

I'd be very excited if this were not a hoax but, in fact, a sign (ha! ha!) of better things for Wheaton (Plaza, or Westfield Wheaton if you insist, but please don't call it "Wheaton Mall," because it just makes you look like you're not from around here.) That entire end of the mall has been dying since Hecht's was snapped up by Macy's in 2005, right after Macy's opened their new store in Wheaton Plaza. On the other hand, they might pull a Fair Oaks and just open another Macy's in the space. Very unimaginative.

- Rethink College Park is abuzz with news that the University of Maryland's gotten the MTA to draw a new Purple Line route away from Campus Drive, the school's main drag, with the Post taking note of it as well. The new, southerly alignment cuts across the center of campus and right behind my apartment building. Wow! The Purple Line could be in my backyard! (Never mind, of course, that I'll long have graduated by then.) If I decide to take this opportunity to become a real, honest-to-goodness NIMBY, all I can say is: Move over, Pam Browning!

Saturday, January 19, 2008

9:30 camp responds to signing of fillmore lease

We were waiting for a response from the I.M.P. camp after Montgomery County signed a lease with Live Nation to open a music venue in the former J.C. Penney building. Seth Hurwitz, owner of I.M.P. Productions and the 9:30 Club, sent a letter this morning to the entire County Council and MoCo's delegation to the State (that's twenty-four delegates and eight senators). "The bottom line is . . . this is just another step in the process," says Hurwitz' spokeswoman, Audrey Schaefer. "This is not gonna be a done deal" without County Council and State approval.

Meanwhile, Karl from Silver Spring, Singular has a recap of the entire Birchmere/Live Nation/I.M.P. debacle, and Eric from Thayer Avenue hopes that he can get some free tickets at the Fillmore by way of praising County Executive Ike Leggett's quick resolution of the months-long spat.

What did Hurwitz have to say? read his letter AFTER THE JUMP . . .

Dear President Knapp and Members of the Council:

County Executive Leggett’s announcement of “final” lease terms between the County and Live Nation Worldwide, Inc. marks a new stage for the decision-making on a live music venue for Silver Spring. Now, the matter moves squarely under the oversight responsibilities of the Council.

Until now, despite the best efforts of I.M.P. and many others in our community, the County’s executive branch has worked essentially behind closed doors with the two private parties who will most benefit from the venue and proposed public subsidies for the venue. I.M.P. and other potentially interested parties were never invited to or even told of these closed door negotiations, and we were not allowed to participate in them. All proposed final terms under which the County would acquire the land from the block’s developer, LDG, Inc., and then would build and lease the land to suit Live Nation, have been negotiated privately, without competition, and without the sanitizing effects of government in the sunshine.

No one can be proud of this closed process or look to it as a model of good government. It has resulted in the executive branch giving greatest priority to confidential negotiation of the two private parties’ desires, while dismissing strong public voices and institutions like the Silver Spring Citizens Advisory Board, and ignoring concerns and recommendations by government officials, representatives, newspapers and community members. It also is obvious that the economic impact analysis that the executive branch has prepared contains very significant economic cost omissions and is improperly skewed to try to justify the deal. This inexplicable process is in stark contrast to the County Executive’s admirable pledge in his inaugural address of a year ago to “make every effort to establish a highly inclusionary, transparent form of government. Those affected by our decisions must be involved from the very beginning, not when assumptions about projects have hardened into stone."

We question the role of the developer in a closed process that requires an eight million dollar initial taxpayer subsidy, grants hundreds of thousands of dollars of annual rent subsidies to the operator for three full decades, and also appears to require zoning and other concessions to the developer. Both the process and the announced deal inevitably bring various forms of attention on the “how, why, what and when” of this transaction--precisely because it has been negotiated behind closed doors and without public disclosure of the tradeoffs the County’s executive branch has made in the rush to get the transaction and related political issues behind it. We also note that the County Executive had justified the closed-door process in part because the negotiation was “three-way” among the developer, Live Nation and the County, but the County’s announcement provides no details at all about the executive branch’s deal with the developer.

Additionally, no one can honestly claim that this closed-door negotiation has nevertheless yielded the best, or even a good, result for the County and its citizens. The fact of the matter is the executive branch never requested expressions of interest by various competitors or joint ventures that would want to build and/or operate a first-class venue in Silver Spring (possibly without any public subsidy), never obtained competing offers, and likewise never received competing best and final offers. Without that open and competitive process, one is only left to guess what a fair, competitive and arms-length deal would look like.

What could real competition do? Clearly a lot: the mere presence of I.M.P. outside of the closed doors caused Live Nation to drop a demand for an option to buy the venue at an outrageously low price. Yet, the executive branch has created the perception that I.M.P. somehow is at fault for making a late entry into a closed door process it was barred from entering. It is impossible to be late for a proposal process that did not exist.

With the late Friday announcement by the County Executive that the County “has reached agreement” on lease terms with Live Nation, the Council now has at least two choices before it. It can ratify the County Executive’s action and create a lower standard for County land transactions, in violation of previous County standards and possibly in violation of law. Or the County Council can decline to accept the Executive’s action and fortify the principle that if private profit-making parties seek or need public funding for their transactions, they must obtain it on an open, competitive and transparent basis.

Re-embracing an open, competitive and public process does not need to involve a continued empty space at the facade of the former J.C. Penney site on Colesville Road, and it does not even mean Live Nation will not be the ultimate operator of the venue.

For example, the City of Miami Beach conducted an open competition, one that involved three competing parties, full disclosure, public hearing and debate, and a process to solicit best and final offers—with the full process open and available to any person who wished to look at it on the City’s Web site (see, Letter to Commission 243-2006). The result of that open process was a ten year lease to Live Nation for a Fillmore, on terms involving no public subsidy, over $1 million per year in rent, and a $3.5 million investment by Live Nation into a City-owned auditorium.

In the case of Silver Spring, the Penney’s site is extremely valuable. Given its location just across from the Round House, AFI Silver, and the ambitious redevelopment of City Place getting underway, given that private development is occurring all around the developer’s property, and given the fact that maximum development of the developer’s overall parcel would require construction of a public amenity, we are certain that a market value analysis would show the highest and best use of this part of the developer’s parcel to be a performing arts facility, with or without public subsidy, and that the most profitable action by the owner (short of receiving public subsidies or assigning the benefits of public subsidies to others) would be to build that venue as soon as possible. That’s why I.M.P. offered to negotiate with the developer for a transfer of the land in exchange for building the Silver Spring Music Hall as their public amenity free of any public subsidy.

At a time when County public services may be cut due to substantial County and State budget shortfalls, we think it is improper to appropriate public funds to pay for a private transaction that involves no public input and no competition. With the announcement of the County Executive’s final action seeking endorsement of this private, non-competitive deal, I.M.P. urges the Council and other decision-makers to stand up for an open public process in the awarding of public funds, and we will continue to seek to be the operator of a Music Hall in Silver Spring.

Seth Hurwitz

Cc: County Executive Isiah Leggett
Montgomery County Delegation

Friday, January 18, 2008

fillmore is here to stay (updated)

The Fillmore, a nationwide chain of music clubs owned by promoter Live Nation, signed a lease today with Montgomery County to open a new branch on Colesvile Road. Renderings courtesy of Hickok Cole Architects.
"I still think it was a rip-off and we could have done better." - Councilman Marc Elrich (D-At Large)
In Saturday's Post, Councilmembers Elrich and Praisner wonder if the County - which already owns Strathmore in North Bethesda and the BlackRock Center in Germantown, among other arts venues - can or should hold the title to another facility, especially one that'll be run by a corporate entity with their own ideas about how the space should be used. (After all, Ike Leggett said he likes Michael Bolton . . . but will Live Nation book him if he can't fill a room?)

From a Montgomery County press release issued today:
"Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett announced today that Montgomery County and Live Nation have reached agreement on a lease that will create a dynamic new music, entertainment, and community use venue in downtown Silver Spring, a move that will dramatically bolster economic development and the music scene for that community and the County as a whole . . .

"The State of Maryland and Montgomery County will contribute $4 million each – for a total $8 million in public investment -- toward the cost of building the facility, which will be owned by the County.

Live Nation will not receive any County or State funding."
Months of controversy, neighborhood complaints, a contentious counter-bid from the owner of the 9:30 Club and a budget crisis could not stop The Fillmore from signing a lease for the old J.C. Penney Building on Colesville Road. Check out the rest of the press release at the County's website.

silver spring: too ugly for its own good?

WHAT'S UP THE PIKE: Blake Jazz Ensemble teams up with Olney Big Band this Saturday; State pledges $100 million for Purple Line; 19-year-old seeks to buy Moby Dick's House of Kabob.

The fifty-year-old Perpetual Building at Georgia Avenue and Cameron Street is threatened with demolition.
"It still hasn’t really come together as an organic community, and it is not conducive to good architecture . . . There are so many bad buildings in Silver Spring, it’s a hard place to do good." - Benjamin Forgey
As someone who spends a decent amount of time thinking about architecture and his beloved hometown, I wanted to punch Washington Post critic Benjamin Forgey IN THE FACE for knocking Silver Spring's aesthetics in this month's Washingtonian article, "The Good, Bad, and Ugly: Best and Worst Buildings." But Forgey's remarks might be worth considering in the light of recent preservation controversies surrounding the so-called "Watson House" in Woodside Park and the Perpetual Building on Georgia Avenue. Not to mention last year's fight to save Falkland Chase, which was largely successful, and a pair of bungalows on Thayer that eventually bit the dust.

After all, if Silver Spring has so many "bad buildings," is anything worth saving? And which ones? Is the Watson House, a relic of our rural-suburban past, necessary to help people remember where we came from? And can the 50's-era Perpetual Building hold its ground architecturally among Downtown's newer office and apartment towers?

I will let you know what I think next week. In the meantime, put your two cents in the comments section or in our nifty poll on the left side.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

saving your neighborhood with punk rock

The Death Star For Sale

For the past year and a half, I have been keeping watch of an old house on the edge of Downtown Silver Spring, Md., my hometown. Until little over a year ago, the tiny bungalow was called The Death Star, and it served as home and stage alike for a group of local punks. There is a considerable punk-and-group-house scene in Silver Spring and its crunchier neighbor, Takoma Park, both on the edge of Washington, D.C.

When racial tensions and urban sprawl left the cores of Washington and Silver Spring empty and decaying, it was taken over by emigrating Latinos; by low-income African-Americans finally able to leave the city proper; and by artists and punks. These groups invested in Silver Spring and made do with what they were left by wealthier families driven away by perceptions of crime and traffic.

Four years ago, the core of Downtown Silver Spring was redeveloped into a mixed-use complex with high-end stores and a twenty-screen movie theatre. A vacant, block-long lot - currently carpeted in synthetic turf until a permanent plaza and civic building is installed - is all that sat between The Death Star and Downtown. And, unsurprisingly, its landlord saw the profits to be made and filed plans to turn the house into a medical office building. When the housing market took a nosedive, the proposal was shelved and a "FOR SALE" sign appeared outside but, by then, the Death Star's occupants had been evicted and moved several blocks away to a similar house in South Silver Spring, an industrial neighborhood that's also redeveloping.

My family left a spacious apartment in Downtown just months before Discovery Communications relocated there, a move many attribute to starting the revitalization. When the new shopping district opened my senior year of high school, I groused that I had to ask my friends for a ride to such an exciting place I could have walked to just a few years earlier, when it wasn't so desirable. And after my first - and only - show at the Death Star shortly after, I grumbled that the ensuing gentrification would probably swallow up one of a dwindling number of independent, organic places in the community.

The Warehouse

For groups - be it low-income households, immigrant business, or punk kids - that were once sitting pretty in cheap, undesirable locations, it stings to think you were merely a keeping the seat warm for people with deeper pockets. At the Warehouse, an experimental theatre/music venue outside of Washington, D.C.'s Chinatown, I attended a workshop called "Fighting Gentrification" during the Positive Youth Fest, a two-day festival for a local punk scene many assumed had been dead for twenty years.

Between sets of loud, political rock served up by local high-schoolers at the Posi Youth Fest (as it's called for short), we talked about creating places that are, if you will, revitalization-proof. Twelve years ago, the Warehouse opened near in the then-moribund neighborhood just seven miles and eight Metro stops away from Downtown Silver Spring. And as its Chinese-restaurant neighbors are slowly being replaced by Chipotles, it has succumbed to rising rents and will be closing soon.

In order to stay afloat, we concluded, the Warehouse must reach out to communities it once ignored - namely the District's substantial African-American population. It'll be a challenge for the venue's mostly-white and suburban clientele, who may not consider themselves gentrifiers but play the same roles, to win the trust of wary residents who've lived there for decades.

If they can, they might stop the cycle of redevelopment with, of all things, punk rock. A neighborhood divided will not stand, but communities of involved and interconnected stakeholders might stand the test of gentrification.

it's a big day for transit (updated)

WHAT'S UP THE PIKE: Speed cameras could go statewide; Calverton blames recent graffiti on gang activity; Downcounty residents slam golf course proposal.

- Facing pressure from the County Council, School Board and over four hundred pissed high-schoolers, County Executive Ike Leggett decided to not to kill "Kids Ride Free, according to this week's Gazette.

As its name suggests, the program allows school-age bus riders in Montgomery County to take Ride On and some Metrobus routes for free. While many of Leggett's proposed budget cuts have stirred up controversy, it was Kids Ride Free - which would save the County a paltry $25,000 - that had the biggest backlash.

- Three days into its new session, the State legislature has promised money for the Purple Line, reports Purple Line Now!, the State's leading advocates for the proposed transitway between Bethesda and New Carrollton. A raft of elected officials - including Governor O'Malley, Lieutenant Governor Brown and Secretary of Transportation John Porcari - held a rally on Lawyers' Mall in Annapolis yesterday to announce their commitment of $100 million for the sixteen-mile-long line's preliminary engineering. In December, the Maryland Transit Administration released a study suggesting that, if built, the Purple Line could see as many as 47,000 riders a day.

UPDATE: The Post covers the new State budget including money for the Purple Line.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

east county makes big showing at district 14 buffet

WHAT'S UP THE PIKE: County's 2008 budget includes new White Oak rec center; Councilmen Leventhal and Knapp renew war on homelessness; The other Columbia Pike gets a streetcar.

Although District 14 stretches from Damascus to Burtonsville, the attendees at Monday night's District 14 buffet were largely from the East County. LEFT: Del. Anne Kaiser talks to Burtonsville real estate broker Bayo Oshinnaiye.

At thirty-five miles, the distance from Burtonsville to Annapolis may simply be a morning commute for some - but for State Senator Rona Kramer (D), it feels much longer. "It's so nice to see friends from home," Kramer said at a buffet Monday night hosted by the District 14 delegation. "You come out here for the session and it feels like another world."

With just two hours until they were set to begin the 2008 legislative session, Senator Kramer and the three District 14 delegates - Anne Kaiser, Herman Taylor and Karen Montgomery, all Democrats - started the year with a buffet at the Miller Senate Office Building in Annapolis for their constituents. They were joined by a raft of State and local officials, including Lieutenant Governor Anthony Brown and County Executive Ike Leggett. While District 14 covers a third of Montgomery County, stretching from Damascus to Burtonsville, it was East County that was best represented among the eighty residents in attendance.

Noting her achievements in politics and civil rights over the past thirty years, Del. Taylor awarded an official citation to Odessa Shannon, director of the county's Office of Human Rights. Shannon, a Tamarack resident, was the first Black member of the School Board when elected in 1982; two weeks ago, she retired. While attending Springbrook High School, Taylor's brother dated Shannon's daughter, the delegate explained. "She showed her commitment to Human Rights," Del. Taylor joked, "because she could put up with my brother."

Burtonsville makes a big showing at the buffet: so much more AFTER THE JUMP . . .

Lieutenant Governor Anthony Brown (second from left) poses with Burtonsville residents at Monday night's District 14 Buffet in Annapolis, hosted by state Senator Rona Kramer.

Over two dozen representatives from the newly-formed Burtonsville Business Association and Citizens Involved, an East County civic group, carpooled down for the evening. Citizens Involved president Eileen York had a chance to speak with the entire District 14 delegation, but "didn't really get any substance" from them, she said. "I just said to [Sen. Kramer] we need to get support for Burtonsville, we need to improve our community."

York, whose group was started last summer as a way of bringing Burtonsville and surrounding communities together, claimed responsibility for the newly-installed "Burtonsville Village Center" signs on Route 29 approaching Route 198 in either direction. Until recently, the signs read "Burtonsville Town Center."

"I complained to the State 'you'd call us a town center? We don't even have a discernible center!'" York said. "When you think 'village,' you think smaller. Town center? You think of a huge mall. Something like Reston, or Columbia . . . and we don't have the space for it here."

Delegate Anne Kaiser, a Burtonsville resident, eagerly awaits to hear suggestions from her constituents and neighbors alike, she explained in a brief speech before the crowd. "If you're driving down the street and say 'there oughta be a law,' why don't you call us up?" Kaiser said.

Monday, January 14, 2008

east county in review: schools and buses (but not school buses)

LATER THIS WEEK: JUTP joins Burtonsville boosters for a buffet dinner with your District 14 delegates in Annapolis.

Buses line up outside the Fairland Center (currently home to Galway Elementary School) after school January 3rd.

- We were alerted to another new local education blog over the weekend: The "More" Child, written by an East County resident and parent whose frustration with Montgomery County's gifted-and-talented programs led her to put one of her daughters in homeschooling. As a product of MCPS' heavily flawed Center Programs, I'm glad to see that other people are writing about the huge gap between what is advertised and what you actually get.

- A group of Whitman High students have started a Facebook group protesting the County's decision to eliminate the "Kids Ride Free" program, enabling students to take Ride On buses without paying fare. Over 460 students, most of whom appear to be from inside the Beltway, have joined.

- To gather support for the Purple Line and public transportation in general, the Action Committee for Transit has decided to explore ways of student outreach. "Students are tremendously supportive of the Purple Line and we need to make sure that voice is heard," said President Ben Ross at their monthly meeting, held last Tuesday at the Silver Spring Center. Noting the student outcry over the Kids Ride Free cuts, ACT chose not to speak out against it specifically themselves. "We need to have students take the lead and make some of the judgments," added Ross.

- Eleven Ride-On routes will see reduced service or be cut altogether this year, according to last week's Gazette. With the exception of Route 127, which serves the Takoma Park and Rockville campuses of Montgomery College, not one of the dropped routes currently serves East County. I'm surprised that the convoluted Route 21, which premiered last June, has scraped together enough riders to stay around for a full year.

Friday, January 11, 2008

east county in review: across the blogiverse

Blogs about blogs seem like a silly idea. But the Silver Spring Blogging Collective (as I like to call it) has been buzzing over the past couple of weeks. What's happening Up The . . . Blogiverse? Let's find out:

- Four Corners resident and parent Jessica has started aparentinsilverspring, an endeavor she hopes will "provide a fun, free and accessible resource for parents of little kids in Silver Spring, Maryland." Whether or not you have kids, you'll want to check out the giant "Activities" calendar at the top of her homepage. Follow it and your kids will have a full schedule until they turn 18.

- Adam Pagnucco, who's been writing guest blogs for JUTP since we were born, has landed a full-bloggership at Maryland Politics Watch. Highlights of Adam's brief tenure at MPW include "The Baroness of Montgomery," a satire of District 18 shenanigans, and a four-part series on Wheaton co-written with his wife Holly Olson, who sat on the Wheaton Redevelopment Advisory Committee.

- S. and Sparow of Down By The River, the only other blog hailing from Up The Pike, have moved to Rockville. I don't know how I missed their goodbye post two months ago in which S. says "the eastern most part of MoCo is so utterly fucked that we can't take it anymore."

While I don't think this area is as bad as they make it out to be - after all, I grew up here - the fact is that many people do leave East County searching for better schools, safer streets, etc. Many of my high school friends' families have already moved away. The east side has to become competitive with Rockville and the rest of Montgomery County, and it's as much a battle of test scores and crime rates as it is one of perception. People have to believe East County is a good place to live. And even if S. and Sparow decided not to say here, I think leaving only drives home their point that we have a long way to go.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

new washington adventist promises jobs, growth for east county

WHAT'S UP THE PIKE: Students talk about Kids Ride Free cuts; Woodside Forest debates significance of "Watson House"; A Happy Birthday to local resident (and my mother) Cammie Reed.

For nine months, Washington Adventist Hospital has been planning to move from its current campus in Takoma Park. Its proposal goes before the Planning Board this summer.

Barely two months old, the Allen Chapel AME Church on Fairland Road was an ideal place for Washington Adventist Hospital President Jere Stocks to discuss the future of his hospital - and of Calverton, its potential new home - Monday night at a community meeting.

"The East County hasn't had enough investment," Stocks explains to a few dozen East County residents, many of whom were members of Allen Chapel. "And we need to do a lot to provide development - and the right kind of development."

A century after opening as the Washington Sanitarium on Carroll Avenue in Takoma Park, the hospital has outgrown its thirteen-acre campus. With aging facilities, no room to expand and limited access from narrow, two-lane roads, Washington Adventist had to look elsewhere. Nine months ago, it announced the purchase of forty-eight acres on Plum Orchard Drive in Calverton for a new facility.

"It would take a miracle" to remain in Takoma Park, says Stocks, who adds that the old campus would still offer health care to the local community. "Of course, we believe in miracles - but from a practical standpoint, it wouldn't work."

what will the new hospital have to offer? so much more AFTER THE JUMP . . .

The proposed Washington Adventist Hospital, located on Plum Orchard Drive in Calverton, would include land for a new fire station.

If the hospital is approved by the Planning Board this summer, it could be completed by 2012. Designed by internationally-renowned architecture firm RTKL - also responsible for the new FDA campus in White Oak and the Downtown Silver Spring complex - the new 700,000-square foot facility will boast 290 private rooms, 2,100 parking spaces in two garages, and 250,000 square feet of office space for physicians. It would also take advantage of a four-acre "lake" on the site, which was originally intended for a corporate headquarters. Landscaped "healing gardens" would hug the lakefront, as would a "faith center" with meeting rooms open for public use.

Up to 3,000 new jobs could be produced by the new hospital, with an emphasis on local contractors, according to Stocks. In the future, the property could also accommodate a daycare center for employees, along with a site for a new fire station that would be donated to Montgomery County.

While exact figures for the relocation have not been released, the president explained that renovating the current facility wouldn't be cost-effective. In a hospital-led study of expansion options, the first phase of renovation alone would cost $135 million. "It's a substantial investment, but it's the right thing to do," Stocks repeated throughout his ninety-minute presentation.

Many of the people in attendance were supportive of the hospital's plans, though there were concerns about traffic. "There are still these major things with transportation," says Frank Cockerell of Calverton, who took offense to Stocks' insistence on referring to the hospital's new location as "White Oak." "You say 'White Oak' but you should be saying 'Calverton' . . . we are jammed, and it's already bad now."

Hospital representatives noted that the hospital's new location would be literally in the center of its patient base, which stretches from Layhill in the west to Landover in the east and is evenly split between Montgomery and Prince George's counties. Stocks added that a proposed extension of Industrial Parkway could provide additional access to the hospital, along with the FDA campus and LifeSci Village, the proposed mixed-use development at the current Percontee quarry on Cherry Hill Road.

All of these projects would drastically improve the quality of life in East County, insists Stocks, an Ashton resident. "I'm an east side community kind of person," he says. "I'm not a 270 corridor person. No offense if you're from the 270 corridor, but I think that we've been neglected . . . and this [hospital] deals with that."

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

progressives, guinness drinkers support tom hucker at fundraiser

George Leventhal and blogger Kevin Gillogly (of Maryland Politics Watch) pose for a picture at Tom Hucker's fundraiser last Sunday at McGinty's. Check out Kevin's (less gossipy) post about the event right here.

With nearly three years left until the next election, State Delegate Tom Hucker (D-Dist. 20) kicked off his re-election campaign early with a fundraiser held last Sunday at McGinty's Public House in Downtown Silver Spring. Hucker entertained hundreds of well-wishers - some paying as much as $1,000 to get in - who came to see Governor Martin O'Malley, fresh from campaigning for Hillary Clinton in New Hampshire.

"You gotta build all the time," says O'Malley, being handed a glass of Guinness by an aide. "The election is in three years, and you gotta keep going. It makes [Hucker] stronger as a delegate and more formidable in the election."

Curious mallgoers peered into the packed room from inside City Place as MoCo's movers-and-shakers worked the crowd. Despite nerve damage from a car accident last year that has rendered him unable to smile, Councilman George Leventhal (D-At Large) came out to support the delegate. Upon arrival, County Executive Ike Leggett and his wife, Catherine, were gently heckled outside the bar by a group of anti-ICC protestors holding signs. And Councilwoman Duchy Trachtenberg (D-At Large) - currently taking the heat for some irresponsible Internet use - gave JUTP the cold shoulder when we offered a friendly "hello."

One attendee that may have raised a few eyebrows was Audrey Schaefer, spokeswoman for I.M.P. Productions and Seth Hurwitz, owner of the 9:30 Club. Schaefer and Hurwitz are currently challenging Montgomery County's choice of Live Nation as operator for a proposed music club in the J.C. Penney Building on Colesville Road. The venue would be located in Hucker's district, which stretches from Takoma Park to Colesville.

what's going on here? so much more AFTER THE JUMP . . .

Over two hundred people packed McGinty's for Tom Hucker's campaign fundraiser last Sunday.

In an e-mail to JUTP, Hucker explained that he knows Schaefer by her lobbying for other issues in Annapolis. "I haven't seen any details in writing yet about the Live Nation proposal, besides what has been reported in the media," the delegate writes. "I'm hoping to receive more information and help find the best fit for that site and the best deal for Silver Spring."

The former president of Progressive Maryland, an advocacy group for working families, Hucker has strong credentials with the progressive community. "He's a great guy and he enjoys what he does," says Linda Harvey, who worked with Hucker while at Progressive Maryland. "He loves people, especially people who are underprivileged. He doesn't just believe in giving them a fish - but teaching them to fish."

While in line to speak with Governor O'Malley, youth advocate Rex Smith explained why he's offering his support. "I think he's a guy who's very progressive about dealing with troubled kids," says Smith, president of Hearts and Homes for Youth, which runs a number of group homes throughout Montgomery County. "He's someone who's willing to put our money where our mouth is in dealing with kids."

Takoma Park resident Bob Bingaman attended the event with his son Kevin. At the bar, Bob explained why he was also supporting the freshman delegate. "I just feel like he's a good progressive," says Bingaman, national field director for the Sierra Club. "I've worked for an environmental agency and I feel like he's just one of us."

But, of course, there were other draws to the Delegate's fundraiser. When asked if he'd just tagged along for the free food and drink, Kevin - who'd just pounded down a glass of something, we're not quite sure - politely smiled and nodded.

Monday, January 7, 2008

big weeks ahead at just up the pike

Governor Martin O'Malley, a little tuckered-out from supporting Hillary in New Hampshire, makes an appearance at Delegate Hucker's fundraiser at McGinty's on Sunday.

It's Winter Break, and I've been out pounding the pavement in East County and collecting stories. Here's a look at what you can expect to see in the coming days and weeks at Just Up The Pike:

HITTING THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL, SORT OF: Over the weekend, State Del. Tom Hucker (D-Dist. 20) had a fundraiser to kick off his re-election campaign . . . for 2010. Two years may be a while away, but you'll be pleasantly surprised by who showed up (for up to $1,000 a head!) to support the freshman legislator.

THE NEXT BIG THING?: Last night, local residents got a first look at Washington Adventist Hospital's potential new home in Calverton. Why does hospital President Jere Stocks think this project will change the face of East County? You'll definitely want to find out.

CALLING OFF RIDE-ON CUTS: Ike Leggett's proposed reductions in Ride-On service have the Action Committee for Transit on high alert. How do they plan to respond? We'll be checking out their monthly meeting tonight.

Come back soon! Just Up The Pike is back and ready to go.

Friday, January 4, 2008

is leggett sacrificing his own community to budget cuts?

WHAT'S UP THE PIKE: Local farmer sees "positive benefits" from ICC; Campaign for Hillary gets Councilwoman Trachtenberg in hot water; Aspen Hill makes a MySpace.

Bus routes like the Ride-On 21, pictured, could be axed under Ike Leggett's proposed budget cuts, many of which target services used by East County residents.

MoCo's got to plug a $400 million leak in its budget for 2008, and it looks like East County will be the stopper. County Executive Ike Leggett conveniently waited until a few days before Christmas to release his "Savings Description," listing a number of County services that he'd like to draw money from, decreasing the quality of life on the east side.

Last week, the Post questioned how Leggett could still promise to subsidize the Fillmore music club on Colesville Road while maintaining a deficit. I'd also like to ask how, as a Burtonsville resident, our County Executive could be so willing to hurt his own community with these proposed budget cuts.

For starters, East County's fire departments - the first responders to any emergency - will have diminished facilities and fewer tools to work with. Despite having "for the most part very old structures that have not been well-maintained or upgraded," according to the report, MoCo would like to reduce fire station maintenance for a savings of $100,000. The Hillandale Volunteer Fire Department may also lose its ladder truck, saving the County just shy of a million dollars. It would then have to rely on the Colesville and Burtonsville fire stations - which are four and five miles away, respectively - increasing response time. Hillandale serves the White Oak community's several apartment complexes, including the twenty-story Enclave towers. Can we afford to give these buildings less fire protection?

Many of you have already heard about Leggett's recommendation to cut Ride-On's "Kids Ride Free" program, which allows school-age kids to use all Ride-On routes and a selection of Metrobus routes - including the popular Z buses along The Pike - for free. In a region as congested as ours, it's important to teach people from a young age how useful public transportation can be. Yet when the County should be raising awareness, they're effectively taking it away. Not only that, but they're depriving students who have little money (more a sign of age and unemployment than socioeconomic background, IMO) of a free and reliable way to get around. The spike in teen driving deaths this fall and three years ago show how risky a venture that is for Montgomery County, even if it does bring a whopping $25,000 back to its coffers.

so much more AFTER THE JUMP . . .

Kids Ride Free would join a slew of "underperforming" Ride-On routes on the chopping block for a savings of over $580,000, says the report. It adds, "These cuts in service will impact nearly two thousand riders per day and in some cases eliminate any transit service to these communities." We don't know what the routes are or who they serve, but any reduction in transit services means more stranded passengers, or worse - more cars on the road.

If those former bus riders decide to hoof it to their destination, they'll be similarly screwed: in order to save $250,000, the County would like to omit all proposed pedestrian improvements for 2008. That would include "bikeway maintenance; raised pavement markings; and unique crosswalk treatments." After investigating the plight of County pedestrians last August, we're disappointed that any attempts to make their lives easier would be pre-empted in the name of cost containment.

One of the biggest cuts on the list - over a million dollars - could go to the Department of Liquor Control, which would delay the purchase of a new delivery truck and improving its numerous government-owned beer-and-wine shops throughout the County. This is an idea I can go for. After all, no other jurisdiction in the State of Maryland feels it necessary to go into the alcohol business; if Montgomery County would stop being a prude and follow suit, Ike Leggett could get the budget shortfall under control. Will it happen? Probably not.

While these proposed cuts were snuck by at a time when most County residents would be trying to enjoy the holidays, the County has set up a series of Public Forums to discuss the budget. Throughout January, two meetings will be held in Silver Spring, one in Wheaton, and another in Olney. But in the meantime - if you ever happen to see Ike Leggett at the Burtonsville Giant, make sure to let him know what you think about his plans to sell our community out for the deficit.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

in and out for moco: 2008 edition

WHAT'S UP THE PIKE: A look at the Blogging Collective's accomplishments in 2007; Silver Spring-bred jazz artist moving to National Harbor.

Inspired by the Post's What's In and Out for 2008, our own list at Just Up The Pike: "In and Out for MoCo: 2008 Edition." (Also check out JUTP's "In and Out for MoCo: 2007 Edition".) Your own submissions are rabidly encouraged.

Happy New Year!

The BirchmereThe Fillmore, Barring Any Change of Heart From Ike Leggett
Knee-jerk opposition to development
Gracefully selling out to the highest bidder
"Briggs Chaney" emoBurtonsville hardcore
Debating the Purple Line for twenty years
Debating the Purple Line for twenty more
The Death Star
The Corpse Fortress
"Town Centers"
"Meeting places" and "Village centers"
Playing mallrat at Wheaton PlazaBeing neighborly on Bonifant Street

so much more AFTER THE JUMP . . .

Speed bumps and humpsSpeed cameras
The Downcounty"SoMoCo"
"Downtown Silver Spring"
"The Promenade"
$ilver BlingThe 'Sprang
Hippies in Takoma Park
Marketers in Takoma Park
$400,000 condos$400-a-month rooms in group houses
Looking down on P.G.Looking up at HoCo

Church-in-a-barnBedding Barn
ChipotlePupuseria trucks
Cold, hard concrete
Soft, squishy turf (for now)
Redeveloping a historic all-girls' schoolRedeveloping a historic Catholic school
Dim Sum at Oriental EastInjera at Addis Ababa