Friday, January 30, 2009

don praisner (1932-2009)

Councilmember Don Praisner at Burtonsville Day last year.

Washington Post article

County press release

Two days shy of the one-year anniversary of his wife's passing, Councilmember Don Praisner succumbed to colon cancer this afternoon at the age of 76. Praisner won a special election last spring for the District 4 seat, which had been held by his wife Marilyn Praisner for seventeen years.

They always say that when one spouse passes away, the other is quick to follow. It's hard to imagine how much strength it must have taken for Don, a grieving widower, to come out of retirement and attempt to complete his wife's Council term. Growing up, I lost four family members in less than three years. I still remember my grandfather sitting in his easy chair when we came to visit, watching television with no interest, quietly sobbing whenever somebody mentioned Nani, my grandmother, who had just passed away.

It's even harder to appreciate how difficult it must be for the Praisner children and grandchildren, who have seen both of their parents pass away in just shy of a year. Don and Marilyn were not only the head of a large and prominent East County family, they were for decades the heads of our community. And we join the Praisner family in commemorating two long, fruitful lives.

I cannot help but wonder: where do we go from here?


record readership in january

I'm proud to report that Just Up The Pike has a record number of hits over the past week, with 1,975 visits and 3,158 individual page views between 1/21 and 1/28, according to Sitemeter. Wednesday the 21st (when I posted about my inauguration ordeal) was the most-read day in JUTP history, with 542 visits and 747 page views.

In celebration, I'm taking the day off, but only because there are some pretty exciting posts coming up that will make the wait worth it. See you next week!

Thursday, January 29, 2009

what's up the pike: slow news, fast water

- From the listservs: Woodside Park resident Robin Siegel posted this photo of a water main break at Noyes Drive and Fairview last week. (You may know Siegel, a volunteer for the Humane Society, from her reports of lost East County pets that frequently appear on the local listservs.) If you haven't checked it out before, our friends at Maryland Politics Watch has written extensively this month on WSSC's inability to maintain their own pipes and some major corruption on the Prince George's half of the bi-county water authority.

- A recently released water quality report says the health of the Paint Branch, which traverses East County and feeds into the Anacostia River, has "improved somewhat," according to the Post. Montgomery County didn't publish their findings at least six months after they were made because of news that water quality of streams in Clarksburg, where thousands of new homes have gone up over the past few years, has decreased significantly. When the report was completed, major construction on the InterCounty Connector had not yet begun in East County, meaning that its impact on the Paint Branch and other local streams that the highway will cross has yet to be revealed. (Thanks to Davey Rogner for the heads-up.)

- Good news: Veterans' Plaza, the long-awaited (and hotly contested) successor to "the Turf" at Ellsworth and Fenton in Downtown Silver Spring, could open as soon as this November.

- As always, check out my weekly column in the Diamondback, the University of Maryland's independent student newspaper. This week, I'm writing about how to better design student housing.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

what's up the pike: getting ready, getting set

- Somewhere between all the carping about whether D.C. is a "hip" enough city and whether Silver Spring is a banal suburban wasteland are local bands like Lonely are the Brave, who prove that good music doesn't give a shit which state it's in. I saw them last weekend at the Calvert House Inn, a small, homey bar/restaurant in Riverdale Park with North America (who share LATB's roots in Colesville), Frederick's Lost Tourists and The Five One, who incidentally are from D.C. It was an evening of loud, brash, but melodic punk and hip-hop that ignores the boundaries of genre and throws a saxophone in for good measure, leaving you deaf, sweaty and completely danced-out.

To me, it's Silver Spring condensed into songs (frenetic, multi-ethnic and often political) - and proof, in a way, that you don't need a homework club to get kids working hard and giving back to their community in any way, shape or form. (We interviewed LATB's Davey Rogner last year about his efforts to stop the InterCounty Connector.) And what purer way to express yourself/your life/your community/your politics than starting a band? Kinda makes me wonder if I should've done something different with all my over-scheduled high school afternoons.

- Depending on how you stand on the Purple Line, you're either sleeping much better or anxiously lying awake at night that the County Council's approved the light-rail line between Bethesda and New Carrollton. It's a big triumph for the project's supporters, who now wait for Governor O'Malley to issue his recommendation later this spring. But we should expect to hear soon from groups like Save the Trail in Bethesda, the Town of Chevy Chase, and the Columbia Country Club, all of whom don't want to see the line routed along the tree-lined Capital Crescent Trail (at right) between Bethesda and Rock Creek Park and have invested significant amounts of time and money to stall the project throughout its twenty-year history.

It's not related to any of the opposition groups, but rumor has it that State Sen. Rich Madaleno (D-Dist. 18), who represents Chevy Chase and has spoken out against putting light-rail trains on the Capital Crescent Trail between Bethesda and Rock Creek Park, attempted to delay the Council's vote in an attempt to manipulate Prince George's County leaders who support the project into backing off a proposal that would take away state funding from MoCo.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

county council unanimously endorses light-rail purple line

We completely forgot that the Montgomery County Council was voting on whether to endorse the Purple Line today (you know, what with schools being closed and all). In fact, they unanimously decided to push for the Medium Light Rail Transit option, which would use the Capital Crescent Trail between Bethesda and Silver Spring and Wayne Avenue east of Downtown Silver Spring. The following is a press release from Purple Line Now!, the county's leading advocacy group for the transitway:
The Montgomery County Council voted unanimously in support of the Medium Light Rail Transit option for the Purple Line today. The vote is the latest in a string of successes for the project which now has both county councils and county executives on the same page.

The Purple Line was practically given up for dead 6 years ago when the Purple Line Coalition was formed to save it from the axe at the beginning of the administration of Governor Robert Ehrlich.

While Purple Line NOW! takes some credit for saving the project, the true salvation comes in the project's own characteristics. It straddles the boundaries of Maryland's two most populous counties with about 10 stops to be located in each of these, so the political base of support is strong. This was coupled with tremendous ridership projections in comparison with other U.S "new start" proposals. About 65,000 daily trips are projected to be taken each weekday on the Purple Line, with the project removing as many as 20,000 cars from the roads. These facts have resulted in broad and growing support for the project from all over the region.

"This project will be built because it is a poster child for the kind of infrastructure the new Obama administration wants, while being 100% consistent with Maryland's smart growth policies", said Webb Smedley, Chair of Purple Line NOW! The project is also consistent with many Master Plan documents in Prince George's and Montgomery Counties.

NEXT STEPS

Purple Line NOW! will be working with Maryland Department of Transportation Secretary John Porcari and the legislature to ensure that funding for preliminary engineering remains in the budget so that the project can move forward on the most expeditious schedule. The locally preferred alternative will be formally selected this spring, with the approval to move forward into preliminary engineering expected Fall of 2009. The goal remains to being construction in the fall of 2011. "We can maintain this momentum with an administration committed to energy independence, an end to the war in Iraq and a policy in support of an environmentally sustainable and transit oriented economic recovery", said Smedley.

wendy's brings the neighborhood to fast food

Can a fast-food restaurant contribute to a "Main Street" feel? Usually not. As stand-alone buildings with big parking lots, burger joints are better suited for the side of a highway. Last year, Greater Greater Washington lamented that pedestrians aren't welcome in most local fast-food places after their dining rooms close and orders are only taken from the drive-through window.

But the Planning Board staff says differently in their recommendation to green-light a new Wendy's at Randolph Road and Vital Way in Colesville on a site previously approved for an office building four years ago. Unlike the rest of Colesville's strip-mall-dominated commercial district, Vital Way is classified as a "Main Street" for the community, with plans calling for street trees, sidewalks, on-street parking and tight building setbacks. It's an attempt to return a small-town, pedestrian-friendly feel to an area that long ago succumbed to suburban development.

The Vital Way elevation - the side that most visitors coming on foot or by car will see - is mostly a blank wall.
The Colesville Wendy's will be pushed close to the street, with parking in back. (Vital Way is at the bottom, Randolph Road at left.)

In response, DavCo restaurants - the people who brought you Wendy's - has pushed the restaurant as close to the street as possible, with a patio for outdoor dining. All of the off-street parking has been put behind the building, along with the drive-through. While the site plan is unorthodox, DavCo wants to use their standard design for the restaurant itself, meaning that the "front" is along Randolph Road, and pedestrians along Vital Way will see a largely blank wall. It's not perfect, and some might say the proposed office building might be a better fit given East County's dearth of well-paying jobs, but a new Wendy's could be a nice addition to Colesville, at least for fellow aficionados of their delicious Chicken Club sandwich.

But if you're waiting to try out their new breakfast menu, you'd better head over to their other East County locations in Briggs Chaney, Wheaton and Calverton: this Wendy's won't open until 10 a.m.

Monday, January 26, 2009

ervin asks MTA to study wayne avenue tunnel further

Councilmember Ervin (center) at a Purple Line Now! fundraiser in 2007.

When it comes to the Purple Line, Councilmember Valerie Ervin (D-Dist. 5) has been caught between the needs of her constituents and the needs of her neighbors in Park Hills, which sits along the Wayne Avenue route of the proposed transitway. At the MTA's Purple Line hearings in November, she said the issue has "literally divided" her community. In a letter to Maryland Secretary of Transportation John Porcari sent last week, Ervin asks the State to "conduct a detailed analysis" of a tunnel underneath Wayne, citing the potential impact of an at-grade Purple Line on the surrounding neighborhoods.

Dear Secretary Porcari:

After reviewing hundreds of resident's comments, the Maryland Transit Administration's Draft Environmental Impact Statement, the County Executive and Planning Board's recommendations, the Montgomery County Planning Board's Staff Report, and reviewing similar projects, it is my opinion that the Purple Line will provide Montgomery County with much needed long-term transportation infrastructure and environmental benefits. However, I want to ensure that the development and implementation of the Purple Line does not negatively impact District 5 residents who live along the alignment. For more than two years, I have been meeting with numerous residents in my own neighborhood who have raised several issues that need to be addressed by MTA staff as the project moves forward.

I would like to request that in addition to the at-grade option for Wayne Avenue, that the MTA conduct a detailed analysis of the community's request for a tunnel (from the Silver Spring Metro to Mansfield Road) as part of the locally preferred alternative and preliminary engineering process. Considering the scale and impact that this project will have on downtown Silver Spring and its surrounding communities, I believe that a detailed analysis of both options merits consideration. With either option, at-grade or tunnel, I concur with the recommendations made to date that a stop at Dale Drive is not currently justified.

All alignment options through Silver Spring must include a detailed plan to improve pedestrian safety and bicycle accessibility, account for future automobile growth, address access to existing and new residences, public facilities and private businesses, encourage long-term transit usage and ensure vibrant long-lasting communities.

I am a strong advocate for mass transit improvements and building the infrastructure that the County needs for its future, but this cannot be done in a manner that impacts residents' quality of life. Thank you in advance for considering this request and for working with my office on issues that my constituents have raised. I look forward to continuing to work with your staff as new issues and concerns arise throughout the design, planning and implementation of this important project.

Sincerely,
[signature]
Valerie Ervin - District 5

bonifant street: the anti-ellsworth

A developer proposes replacing these stores on Bonifant Street with a nine-story apartment building.

If you were on Bonifant Street around 2:30pm last Friday, that kid you saw counting his steps on the sidewalk with his head down was me. Three of my friends/classmates and I are designing a mixed-use building for a student design competition sponsored by AARP, and we chose the parking lot of the Chevy Chase Bank at Bonifant and Georgia as our site. On Friday, we had to pace out the lot's dimensions.

Were I on Ellsworth Drive, I would have been quickly and efficiently carted away by security, but just two blocks away, I was nothing more than a mere curiosity. "Interesting," one woman said a little-too-loudly as she walked by. A man in a green knit cap who seemed to work for the bank snapped a picture of me with a disposable camera and ran off. Jim Dandy, of the dry cleaner across the street that bears his name, pulled my friend and I aside and had a long conversation with us.

This street embodies everything I love about Silver Spring - this "quirky grit" that you can't get rid of, no matter how hard you try to clean it up as has been done on Ellsworth Drive. Bonifant Street resident and musician Lisa Null calls it "micro-neighborhood" in a 2007 guest blog for JUTP, listing dozens of businesses here and on neighboring that you'll be hard-pressed to find anywhere else in this area.

The proposed Bonifant Plaza would replace the block of shops shown above.

We should be celebrating this kind of vibrancy in Downtown Silver Spring, but instead we've been stifling it - with apartment towers like The Crescent, The Portico or The Veridian, whose vapid "pocket parks" and miserable (or nonexistent) retail offerings kill street life, or with "urban renewal" projects like the Silver Spring Library project, which allowed the County to buy and raze several businesses at the corner of Bonifant and Fenton with eminent domain years before the library will even be finished.

The biggest threat to Bonifant Street has yet to arrive. A proposed apartment building, Bonifant Plaza would rise just east of Georgia Avenue, on a site currently home to the dry cleaner, a nail salon, a karate school, an art gallery, and quite a few other businesses I failed to mentioned. The plans have been kicked around for the past couple of years due to worries about accessing the adjacent alley and the Purple Line, but according to the blog DCmud, Bonifant Plaza could come before the Planning Board next month.

so much more AFTER THE JUMP . . .

With paltry retail offerings and unnecessary pocket parks, new buildings like the Crescent on Wayne Avenue make the business district less vibrant.

Developer Theo Margas says that his new building won't include retail because the zoning "doesn’t allow for ground floor retail," which sounds questionable given he's displacing several retail and office spaces. The site (like the site we're working on) is currently zoned CBD-2, which requires at least 5% retail or service uses, which for Bonifant Plaza would be less than 6,000 square feet, the size of a 7-Eleven. So not only are we knocking out a considerable portion of the retail space that gives Bonifant Street its character, convenience and street life, but we aren't replacing it at all.

Silver Spring, Singular made it very clear that the Ellsworth urban renewal project did not displace any local businesses, a standard we should keep to in future development. I would say that Ellsworth's glitz and bustle is an effective counterpoint to the grit and warmth of Bonifant Street and, together, they one cool effing place to be. Why would anyone come here if it was just glitz or grit? There are plenty of suburban town centers that can outdo Ellsworth's carefully planned excitement and plenty of D.C. neighborhoods that would make Bonifant's quirkiness look downright staid.

Outside the dry cleaners, Jim Dandy (at left) gestures to the his picture in last year's Gazette pasted to the window of his store. "I looked pretty good when I was younger," he says, laughing. 93 years old, Jim Dandy has been here a long time, he says, and he's happy. "You can make yourself happy. People claim what they don't want . . . why don't they claim what they do want?"

I claim Bonifant Street. Our group's got a challenge in designing a mixed-use building for this street, but we're going to do what MoCo and the development community should be: taking an approach to redevelopment that seeks to preserve what currently exists while also accommodating additional growth. The businesses along Bonifant would, I'm sure, welcome the additional traffic that came from new apartments or library patrons or Purple Line riders. That is, if they remained to see any of it.

Friday, January 23, 2009

what's up the pike: cheap food, expensive mistakes

Don't really know what the actual temperature was yesterday, but it felt pretty warm, and I saw people out walking around, lining up at bus stops, kids skateboarding in the parking lot of the McDonald's in White Oak. Figures that cheap food and skaters would go together. (Perhaps McDonald's should consider creating an older version of the "PlayPlace.") Anyhoo:

- The Post's John Kelly says that Led Zeppelin, a band that parents/kids who probably do not skate in front of the White Oak McDonald's listen to, may have played their first local show at a teen center in Wheaton forty years ago last Tuesday (the evening, in fact, of Nixon's inauguration), but nobody has any real proof of this actually happening, and it's a relic of a lost time when kids actually went outside to do things, and blah blah blah y'all are Really Old.

Which makes me think two things: 1) With his inexplicable knowledge of Wheaton's seedy/super-cool past, one Thomas Hardman might know the real answer, and 2) really? like East County isn't currently brimming with house shows that kids actually leave their computers to attend in places with names like The Corpse Fortress and Scumbag Nation? Seeing as I couldn't tell you where the nearest teen center is, I figure our local network of punk houses/skate spots/the Hot Topic in Wheaton Plaza has at least partially filled that void.

- County Executive Ike Leggett joins the ranks of those supporting light rail for the Purple Line, suggesting that the Town of Chevy Chase really did waste their money on studying alternatives that would've put the transitway out of their backyard and into someone else's. Stay tuned as the County Council has their say on the Purple Line at a hearing next Thursday.

- The Texas-themed LongHorn Steakhouse will be opening up in the WesTech Village Corner (at right) at Route 29 and Tech Road, bringing a new dimension of dining to East County's burger-and-chicken-dominated culinary landscape. LongHorn's current menu specials include the usual ridiculously-named chain-restaurant fare like the Raspberry Mochatini and the White Cheddar & Bacon Stuffed Filet. If you wanna try any of them, you'd better head to existing locations in Columbia and Laurel, because the empty restaurant pad where we assume LongHorn is going probably won't be yielding steaks for a few months.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

hilton hotels on potential silver spring move: "that's hot"

Paris Hilton no longer has a stake in the company that bears her surname, and the joke's kind of tired . . . but whatever. Photo courtesy of casasroger.

Mega-hotel chain Hilton Hotels is moving its headquarters from Beverly Hills to the D.C. area, according to the Post. Many see the move as an attempt to give main competitor Marriott a final showdown for hotel supremacy. Here at Just Up The Pike, we see this as an opportunity for the east side to get one over on Bethesda, Marriott's home town. (Never mind that their official address reads "Washington, D.C.")

In other words: Ike Leggett better be showing Hilton some choice office space in Silver Spring, because why would they want to park themselves under Bill Marriott's nose when they could stare him down from across Rock Creek Park? I mean, they must be familiar with the place, given that Choice Hotels International's already set up shop in Burnt Mills (their headquarters appear on their website) and, of course, Hilton just opened two new hotels on Colesville Road across from one of their existing hotels.

And as the Hilton Silver Spring's website says, our fine city has "all the advantages of a metropolis with the charm of a Montgomery County suburb . . . with Washington DC just a few minutes away via the DC Metro." (If you're listening, Hilton CEO Christopher J. Nassetta, we're on the same side of the Red Line as Capitol Hill, putting you within reach of all those congresspeople you want to lobby for whatever it is hotels lobby for.) It also notes that Silver Spring is "the perfect place to host your special event [i.e. recruiting session for disgruntled Marriott employees] or wedding [i.e. in case Paris Hilton and Good Charlotte's Benji Madden - who is from Waldorf! - ever get back together]."

Sounds like Hilton's already made their decision to me, but MoCo better play it safe and start throwing money their way to keep them from moving to Virginia like Marriott threatens to do. And once we get them safely in our talons, we can start planning those nuptials right here in Silver Spring. I say they should exchange vows on Ellsworth. The emo kids/teenage hipsters will deny having ever listened to Good Charlotte, but they'll appreciate seeing Paris in an ironic, semi-appreciative sort of way.

what's up the pike: not the change i expected

- District 4 Councilmember Don Praisner (at left) is in intensive care at Suburban Hospital in Bethesda this week for an unknown period of time following stomach tests. While they're still waiting on the results, aide Joy Nurmi told the Gazette that the councilmember - who won a special election last year to finish the rest of his late wife Marilyn Praisner's term - has "not been eating and has been losing some weight." Meanwhile, daughter Alison Klumpp says she might run to succeed both of her parents on the County Council in 2010.

- Speaking of which: the County Council's Transportation & Energy Committee will be reviewing the Purple Line today (warning! PDF file), discussing potential modes and routes for the controversial transitway between Bethesda and New Carrollton before the whole council votes for it on the 27th. All three committee members - Roger Berliner, Nancy Floreen and George Leventhal - have expressed support for using light-rail on the Purple Line, so we wonder how much of a discussion it may actually be.

- The Gazette does a proper write-up of IMPACT Silver Spring's Silver Spring Action meet-up last week. While I thought some of the discussion was a little patronizing, I can't overstate how inspiring it was to meet so many people who actually want to be/are already involved in the Silver Spring community, which is always a plus. (I also can't overstate how much I enjoyed the Swedish meatballs, though they were cold by the time I arrived.)

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

inauguration 2009 (my day in pictures)

16th and H, 7 A.M. My friends and I left College Park about two hours earlier, after a near-one hour wait to enter the parking garage.

What had started out as one of the most inspiring and memorable days of my young life quickly devolved into a show of everything that's wrong with people. With little or no direction as to where we could/should go to get on the Metro and cops who had seemingly no control over the increasingly unruly crowds on the Mall and along Independence Avenue SW, our trip home from the inauguration proceedings turned into a four-and-a-half-hour ordeal.

We found ourselves literally trapped in a Safeway at the Waterside Metro station, forced to choose between waiting outside in a line that stretched for two blocks or to hole up inside a grocery store where already disgruntled people had to wait over two hours to use a bathroom and others quickly resorted to stealing food. When we finally got in the station and at a train, people were pushing so hard that a woman nearly lost her son, and I heard her screaming his name as the doors shut.

While I did see many displays of kindness and goodwill that spoke to just how much Barack Obama has brought our nation together over the past year, I will never forget the people who pushed, shoved and cussed their way through the crowds, the men who tried to pick a fight with me after I asked them to quiet down so I could hear Obama's speech. It reminds me that we have still have far to go as a people and as a nation.

(See attached photoset.)

Approaching the Washington Monument. People were cheering, holding up posters, even handing out free food. For a moment, the Mall felt like the safest, most peaceful place on Earth.

Barack Obama's swearing-in. I thought Rick Warren's invocation was kind of inspiring, despite reports that most felt otherwise and my own desire for self-preservation.

Chaos on Independence Avenue SW as police vehicles force their way through an unruly crowd struggling to reach a Metro station. As the sea of faces parts, we see people carrying a man, face bloodied, who clearly had been trampled.

The line to get in L'Enfant Plaza station, 7th and Maryland Avenue. With conflicting reports from police as to which Metro stations are open or closed, people have no idea where to go and no one to direct them.

Safeway, 3rd and D Streets SW. Twenty-three blocks from the Mall, we reach the Waterfront station, which is packed, and take refuge inside the only store for blocks around.

Waterfront. "Everybody's gonna get home," calls a Metro employee from the top of the escalator. For the first time all day, it looks like someone knows what to do.

Monday, January 19, 2009

four-day weekend!

JUTP is taking a break for the next couple of days to rest and deliberate on whether or not I should go to this inauguration thing, what with all of the traffic and crowds and the nagging fear that something, God forbid, could happen downtown on Tuesday. I don't know. I had to go to H Street NE for a site visit today and it was pretty backed up when you got downtown - Georgia Avenue or less stopped at Florida Avenue. And this was just for the inauguration concert. I figure Barack will draw a lot more people than Beyonce, but that is just a hunch.

Probably should take some time to write about Denver, too, because I never followed through when I said I'd write about Montreal and New Orleans after visiting them last year.

So, I'll see you on Wednesday, or before then if the spirit moves me, which is more than likely.

Friday, January 16, 2009

the kids really are alright (silver spring action recap)

Scenes from the Silver Spring Action meeting last Tuesday at the Discovery Channel headquarters.

There must've been thirty or forty people packed into this little side room in the Discovery Channel headquarters Downtown, trying to find a way to help The Young People. When I'd been invited to this year's Silver Spring Action meeting, hosted by IMPACT Silver Spring, I hadn't expected a giant networking party, complete with motivational speakers and food. But I wasn't surprised that I was almost the youngest person there, second only to the high-school-aged son of a fellow attendant with grey hair.

"We have to give the young people something to do," says one woman. More after-school programs, somebody says. "Some place to go, something to do." Structure. Somebody mentions the shooting of Tai Lam last year and says, "We gotta get those kids off the street." And I'm looking around, thinking, you don't what you're talking about.

For me, "after school" meant one of two things: going home and sitting on my ass because I had nowhere to go and no way to get there, or a schedule packed with meetings: It's Academic, Mock Trial, Film Club, Journalism, and so on. I picked the latter, figuring I'd spent way too long trying to figure out the bus schedules, the bike lanes, how to get around my mother's warnings that I'd get raped if I went to the park in our neighborhood.

So I speak up.

so much more AFTER THE JUMP . . .

Scenes from the Silver Spring Action meeting last Tuesday at the Discovery Channel headquarters.

"It's all good and well that we're trying to do something for young people, but the kids have to do it for themselves," I say. "They have to have a sense of ownership over where they go, what they're doing, how they do it. Just look at the Gandhi Brigade making a documentary for 'the Turf,' or the memorial for Tai Lam on Ellsworth. Those were kids who saw a need for something and made it happen.

"There's a difference between kids being in public and doing something destructive and kids being in public because they're bored. If we want them to be occupied, it's our responsibility to supply the means, not the end."

Then I point to the one teenager in the room and say "You need to talk, because you're the youngest one in here." And he does. "My friends and I used to hang out on the Astroturf all the time, and I think those places are important," he says. "I know they're putting in a plaza, and I think the more places we have like that, the better it's going to be."

Scenes from the Silver Spring Action meeting last Tuesday at the Discovery Channel headquarters.

There were hushed murmurs, nods in affirmation. An older woman taps me on the shoulder and says "You're absolutely right! Kids need something to do, like skateboarding!" and I'm like, "Yeah, sort of." Someone else says they're editor of a local newspaper written for teens by teens. "They need to create their own agenda," she says. Right on.

I don't think there's any shortage of after-school programs that offer kids something to do after school, whether it's sports or Mock Trial or homework help. Sometimes, kids need unstructured time and unstructured places. They can make their own decisions, forge their own identity and their own relationship to the community at large.

As a senior in high school, I was horrified when the Downtown redevelopment happened, but now I'm disappointed I had so little time to hang out on Ellsworth. It's what sets Silver Spring apart from the rest of MoCo (or suburbia, for that matter): public places for kids to hang out and efficient public transportation for them to get there. "The Turf" said we want youth to be play a role in Silver Spring's civic life, and they responded in kind. It sounds like we've done quite a lot to help The Young People.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

planning board votes 4-1 for light-rail purple line

The Planning Board endorsed using light rail for the Purple Line and routing it along Wayne Avenue (seen here in a MTA rendering) in Silver Spring.

From the Post:
"I have been a skeptic of light rail, but in dense areas, I think rail has a lot of advantages," said Royce Hanson, planning board chairman.

The board also backed a staff proposal that would keep light rail at street level in Silver Spring, despite community concerns that it could clog traffic and disrupt nearby residential neighborhoods . . .

The vote came after almost five hours of debate during which the planning board hashed out the competing benefits and disadvantages of light rail and rapid buses. Board members also worried that placing the system near the popular Georgetown Branch Trail, a segment of the Capital Crescent Trail, could harm the environment and interfere with well-established residential neighborhoods in Chevy Chase and Bethesda.
The only vote against light-rail came from Amy Presley, an activist from Clarksburg, who worried that the added cost would endanger federal funding and delay the Purple Line's construction. After this, the County Council will deliver their endorsement later this month, followed by the Governor's decision in the spring.

nothing "eco" about this "estate"

Rendering of the Eco-Estate @ Briggs Chaney. Photo courtesy of Showcase Architects.

Before the economy disappeared (or perhaps because of it) there's been a lot of discussion of "green" building techniques, especially here in East County. Both the proposed White Oak Recreation Center and Burtonsville Town Square shopping center are gunning for some certification on the LEED rating system, which measures how environmentally sustainable a building is. For instance, Burtonsville Town Square will use geothermal heat pumps, which carry warm air from four hundred feet below ground to the surface, instead of using an electric or gas-powered furnace.

If you've driven down Briggs Chaney Road in Cloverly recently, you've probably seen the "Eco-Estate," a new home being designed and built by Showcase Architects as a laboratory for environmentally-friendly building techniques. It is also ugly, with the massing of a warehouse, the charm of a strip mall and failing even to do the faux-Colonial thing that every other McMansion in East County does in a cheap attempt at paying homage to this region's architectural heritage.

Model of the Eco-Estate @ Briggs Chaney. Photo courtesy of Showcase Architects.

But my beef with the Eco-Estate has less to do with its looks than the idea that building a super-sized house with a three-car garage on an acre-plus lot in an edge-suburban area miles from schools, workplaces and [most] shopping (it's a thirteen-minute walk to the Safeway in Cloverly, says Google Maps) is "green" because you used Energy Saver appliances. There are many notable environmentally-friendly features - the same heat pumps planned for Burtonsville Town Square, for instance - but one that could have saved the most energy was ignored completely.

We haven't talked enough about "green" planning - reducing energy use by making it easier to get around without a car, and reducing impacts on the natural environment by building in existing communities. The Downtown Silver Spring revitalization is a good example of this or, on a smaller scale, the twenty-year-old Wyndcrest development in Ashton. Neither of these projects could get a LEED rating, but they've been noted for their eco-friendliness by making it easy to walk to schools, shops and transit. In Wyndcrest, homes are sited on small lots, using up less land in a community still dominated by farms and forests.

Wyndcrest in Ashton. Photo courtesy of Rodgers Consulting.

The real "Eco-Estate" would be located closer-in, near Metro, maybe in one of the neighborhoods around Downtown Silver Spring or Wheaton where you won't need a three-car garage because the occupants won't need three cars. Or it could still be in Cloverly, but next to the town center, allowing a real village to form while not disturbing the semi-rural areas around it. The house would also be much smaller, reducing energy use solely because you have fewer rooms to heat.

If we're going to make this house an example of "green" design, it should show every single way that a family could reduce their impact on the planet. (It would also be nice if the architects actually put some architecture on this house as well, because as it currently stands, the most environmentally-friendly way to improve the Eco-Estate would be to put it out of its misery.)

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

sketchy 101: the only white family in town

Silver Spring has a reputation of being a "majority-minority" area (though Census results show that whites are the largest ethnic group in almost all of Silver Spring's seven zip codes), which gives some the impression this is the "bad part" of MoCo, which others then take as proof that they're "slumming," which always makes you look cool to friends who live in "safer" places.

I wrote (but never published) the following post last summer about a teacher (a white teacher) who was doing just that:

A lot of teachers like to tell stories about their "home life," sometimes as an example for the class, sometimes because it establishes that they are real people like you or me. I usually like this, because I can get to know teachers in a way that you normally can't in the confines of a curriculum. When these teachers live in East County, however, I get nervous when they start talking about life off-campus.

In the summer class I just finished, my teacher got into this habit from the first day of class. A joke about inviting the class to a Fourth of July barbeque led me to look up where she lives, much to her chagrin. It's a pretty nice neighborhood in Aspen Hill - only about ten years old, very quiet. I have friends from high school who lived there, all of whom were white.

Today, during break, one of my classmates talked about calling the police on a group of teenage girls who were hot-boxing in front of her house. They were blonde and white, she said, and the police simply brushed them off when they arrived. "If they looked sketchy," she said, it would've been completely different. I objected, saying if I saw anyone I didn't know outside my house smoking pot, it would've been sketchy regardless of what color they were.

Teacher replies she knows what "sketchy" looks like - "we're the only white family in the neighborhood," she says, and the neighbors don't act decent: they yell at their children, play loud music, etc. "They're mad at us because we called the police on them," she said.

I stopped listening to her in class after that.

What do you think? We've all dealt with unpleasant neighbors, but it is right to place the blame on race (or, worse yet, to make those kind of accusations as a teacher in front of her students?)

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

fundraiser celebrates "rising star" tom hucker

With the primary election less than eighteen months away, State Delegate Tom Hucker (at right) hosted a fundraiser Sunday afternoon at McGinty's in Downtown Silver Spring. All of them snacked on a generous buffet of what I believe must be Irish delicacies (beef in Guinness stew, and the like) as curious mall-goers stared through the exit doors that separate McGinty's from City Place, which houses the bar.

The upstairs bar was packed with several dozen supporters of the first-term delegate from District 20, which covers all of Silver Spring east of Route 29 along with Colesville and White Oak. There were also a number of local Important People, including Councilmembers Val Ervin and Marc Elrich, County Executive Ike Leggett, Attorney General Doug Gansler and the aides of Congressman Chris Van Hollen and Governor Martin O'Malley, all Democrats.

A small group from Baltimore also came out, including City Council President Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and delegates Talmadge Branch (Dist. 45) and Maggie McIntosh (Dist. 43). "You have an awful lot of representatives from Baltimore here," says McIntosh, sporting a bright blue cast. "We love Montgomery County, and we want Montgomery County to love us." She went on to call Hucker a "rising star" in the state legislature, citing his efforts to increase affordable housing and improve the environment.

Citing the mantra of President-elect Barack Obama, Hucker stressed the need to "bring that change to Annapolis," spurning any attempts at doing business-as-usual in these times of need. "No one in this room is a power-that-be," says Hucker. "They're 'agents of change' if they're here."

Attorney General Doug Gansler introduces Delegate Tom Hucker.
Hucker's fundraiser drew several dozen well-wishers to McGinty's Public House in Downtown Silver Spring.
Hucker talks about bringing about change in Annapolis.

five for the pike: the best schools in the nation . . .

The lobby of the new Galway Elementary School, which has been closed for renovations since the fall of 2007.

Yours truly was able to get V.I.P. passes (via his little brother) to Galway Elementary School's Open House last week, where they unveiled their newly-renovated campus in Calverton. (Yeah, blogging really does have its perks.) But are those nice, white walls and that inexplicably tall railing enough to earn Galway and the rest of Maryland's public schools the title of best in the nation? I don't know, but here's what my best schools in the nation would have:

- High design. If a school doesn't look like an assortment of kitchen appliances, why even bother? Super-famous architect Michael Graves is super-famous at assorting kitchen appliances into schools, as he did with the St. Coletta School on Capitol Hill.

- A curriculum that teaches parking-meter literacy. And the proper grounds for writing into a newspaper, I guess, because in a 21st-century world students should know to complain about your parking tickets on Facebook.

- More effective screening of "gifted" students. Time to be serious again. A recent report says that MoCo's gifted-and-talented programs favor affluent, white or Asian students - rewarding their educational advantages while ignoring the "potential" of poorer or minority students, according to one expert. As one of three students of color in the GT program at Barnsley Elementary thirteen years ago, I can attest to that, having drowned in a pool of tutor-and-HGH-powered little shits from Bethesda and Potomac. (Not that I'm bitter or anything, of course.)

Galway's two-story high media center.

Buying beds for sleepy students. Broad Acres Elementary School in Oakview has taken a "no-prisoners" approach to educating their immigrant-heavy student body, even buying a bed for a kid who napped in class. I figure many families can afford to give their children beds, and most schools probably can't afford to provide sleeping arrangements, so we'll just have to settle for . . .

Later start times. This fall, Fairfax County plans to start high schools over an hour later after parents pushed to give their cranky teenaged offspring more sleep time. MCPS has repeatedly rejected any proposals for later start times, citing the difficulty of re-routing school buses. Having spent four years waking up in the dark to get to school at 7:25, I'm sure the sixteen-year-old me would've appreciated it - though, with Fairfax middle schools opening at 9:40, you can't help but wonder what the pre-teen set, still geared towards waking up early, would do with all this newfound morning free time:

Monday, January 12, 2009

skater mob on ellsworth (nowhere to get drunk)


I'd never really noticed this before, but boy, is Ellsworth overrun with kids. Especially around 6pm Friday night. I'm hanging out, waiting to meet with with Henry from the Scene, when all of a sudden like three dozen skater kids come down Ellsworth all at once on their boards, a security guard chasing after them. Duck inside Borders, and the middle-schoolers have taken over, staking out territory in the coffee shop, the music section, between the stacks.

I'm like, "where are the adults?" Not the parents, though I'd like to know how they're spending Friday night. Or where my fellow twenty-somethings go on a Friday night. With graduation approaching fast, I'm gonna have to find a place to spend the next phase of my life, one hopefully characterized by lots of bars and Metro access, and I've realized it ain't Silver Spring.

Biggest regret my friend's dad ever had, he says, was moving here after college because there was nothing to do. Thirty years later, there's still no "nightlife" in Silver Spring between leaving high school and having children, aside from a handful of bars like the Quarry House and Jackie's, and I don't see those being the foundation of a crazy Friday night out.

Some might say more bars and clubs would scare the families away (many of Downtown's neighbors already fear that happening with the Fillmore) but I don't see us getting the 2 a.m. drunken rush hour any time soon. A little more nightlife might even get the kids to chill out, knowing that the older set's around (and watching through beer goggles). Clarendon has quite a few bars and clubs, and the singles and strollers seem to get along pretty well. (I believe Virginia's skaters have decamped to Alexandria, but that is just a theory.)

We don't have to become MoCo's U Street, but until I have a couple of little Up The Pikes running around, that would be absolutely fine with me.

(BTW: Super-thanks if you left a comment on Tuesday's post about the new scanners at Giant . . . we had 21 comments, the most JUTP's had since last July.)

crosswalk crusaders featured on pedestrian program

I was glad to see that Downtown residents Mike and Wendy Linde were featured on Perils for Pedestrians, a public-access cable show produced by Bethesda resident John Wetmore about - what else? - pedestrian safety. For years, the Lindes have been waging a silent campaign to make Silver Spring's streets less dangerous for those making their way on foot. Mike and Wendy took me on a walk in 2007, pointing out some of the business district's worst intersections for pedestrians.

Though I'd only gotten an e-mail from Wetmore about the Lindes' appearance the other day, I was surprised to see that the show was actually filmed last summer (Look at the leaves on those trees!). When I saw Mike and Wendy at Tom Hucker's fundraiser (come back tomorrow for pictures!), they didn't even know it had aired. ("He never contacted us back," Wendy says.) Fast forward to 21:30 to see the interview or, if you'd like to watch it on a TV, Perils for Pedestrians airs regularly on Access Montgomery TV 21.

Friday, January 9, 2009

what's up the pike: take it all in stride

While buying some bread at Super Fresh yesterday, I discovered a live bird. This was surprising to me, because birds tend to hang out in the poultry section. Can't say I was encouraged by this clear lapse of quality control on the part of Super Fresh (if I want a live bird, I'll go to a petting zoo, thanks) but was particularly disappointed because the little guy would not let me take a picture of him. He must've been pretty scared.

Anyway, this is what's going down in East County:

- Woodside residents are relieved to know that the strange men tromping through their backyards are actually transit advocates Webb Smedley and Wayne Phyillaier, who have been hacking a makeshift Capital Crescent Trail, which currently ends abruptly in an industrial area west of Downtown Silver Spring.

- The Post reports that the suspects in last month's shooting at Wheaton Plaza have been apprehended, proving that crime especially doesn't pay when you walk around on camera holding a carry-out box. (These things help to identify you, like ski masks or a cell phone. Remember the Cell Phone Bandit? The guy she was on the phone with was my cousin. I promise.)

- Local advocacy group IMPACT Silver Spring is holding its yearly Silver Spring Action conference next Tuesday, January 13 at the Discovery Building. The following comes from their event listing on Facebook, where you can get more info.
Last year, over 150 people came together to develop a vision for a welcoming, safe, and vibrant Silver Spring.

Join us this year as we take our vision into action!
• Network with members of our diverse community – building stronger cross-cultural relationships
• Discuss issues in your neighborhoods and institutions – identifying where team leadership is needed
• Find others to act with you for positive change – experiencing the power of community-based action

Doors open at 6:45 pm
Program from 7:00 - 9:00 pm
I'll be there. Totally ready to take this civic-involvement thing away from the keyboard and into the real world.

singular puts self-righteous silver sprUng-haters in their place

Silver Spring, Singular rails against those who call Downtown Silver Spring a "chain-laden hellhole," pointing out that the development at Ellsworth and Fenton didn't actually displace any of the mom-and-pop stores that people glorify. (However, a U-Md. study did find that some small businesses nearby have been hurting since the revitalization started.)

I have to admit I love me some chains, and often dream about butter biscuits from Red Lobster. You wonder why those snobby-liberal-hipster types are so giddy to find and humiliate anything remotely "mainstream," like chain stores or suburban places like Silver Spring. Of course, it could be borne from a hatred of parents (who raised them in the suburbs) or a hatred of Big Corporations, which always sounds "enlightened," but if you ask one of these people to elaborate, they can rarely produce a response as to why they are "evil."

There are people who have legit reasons for hating on Silver Spring. Our friend Richard Layman seems to draw from a mix of bitterness and actual expertise on urban planning issues, and he's pointed out time and time again that we haven't done enough to set ourselves apart from every other suburban town center in the area. In fact, we've actively killed some of the things that made us special (anyone remember when City Place hosted a poetry series? I don't. Wish I'd been there . . .)

The Haters in publications like the City Paper and DCist have gladly ignored what Silver Spring really has to offer, but only because we've made it hard to find.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

purple line hearing hits planning place

The Fortress of Planning.

While Virginia's celebrating the final approval of the Silver Line to Dulles Airport, the Purple Line fight continues in Maryland as the Planning Board holds a hearing today at 2pm for the controversial sixteen-mile transitway between Bethesda and New Carrollton. The lists to speak and to give written testimony have both been closed, but it's still worth coming out to see what Maryland Politics Watch's Adam Pagnucco calls "an all-out cultural and economic conflict," between some of the wealthiest and poorest neighborhoods in the region, all of which could find themselves connected by the Purple Line.

Last month, planning department staff endorsed using light-rail and routing portions of the sixteen-mile line along the Capital Crescent Trail between Bethesda and Silver Spring and down the middle of Wayne Avenue between Fenton Street and Flower Avenue. The Planning Board's recommendation will be sent to the Montgomery County Council, who with the Prince George's County Council make their suggestions in the spring. Governor Martin O'Malley, will make the final decision. A light-rail Purple Line has already been endorsed by the Washington Post twice, in November and this week.

Opposition to the project has been building in Chevy Chase, East Silver Spring and even Langley Park, where civic activist (and my former urban planning professor) Bill Hanna says it'll "destroy" the working-class immigrant neighborhood. It's also been under fire from County Councilmember Marc Elrich, who prefers Bus Rapid Transit to light-rail and has drafted a county-wide BRT plan that incorporates the Purple Line. The so-called "Elrich Plan" has been mentioned in a couple of letters to the Gazette, suggesting that the councilmember's proposal has caused an insurrection - though he does tell today's Post that he will vote for light-rail in a show of solidarity with his colleagues.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

student photo contest deadline friday

The following comes from Tim Hampton of VisArts, the arts center at Rockville Town Square (pictured!), which is hosting a student photo contest. "We tend to get more entries from the other side of the county and I wanted to try to balance that" with submissions from the east side, says Hampton. Take heed, you alternakids who hang out on Ellsworth, what with your skinny jeans and your SLR cameras:
This Friday, Jan. 9, is the deadline for VisArts' annual student photography call for entries. This is honestly an *amazing* opportunity for middle and high school students, because their two photos will get juried by Frank Goodyear, the Assistant Curator of Photography at the National Portrait Gallery, and, if selected, exhibited at VisArts' gallery during the upcoming "How You See It" exhibition.

It's completely free to middle- and high-school students, and entering is simple: someone sends an e-mail to digitallab@visartscenter.org with either one or two photos attached (they can be digitally altered or pure) and 5 pieces of information: (1) Artist Name, (2) Image Title(s), (3) Artist Age, (4) Current School, (5) Name(s) of the artist's photography or art teachers. That's it, although full details are described in the attached PDF, which is also available for anyone to download at http://www.visartscenter.org/digitallab.html
That's this Friday, January 9th. No offense to our friends at Rockville Central, but let's show them how we do it (uh, taking pictures . . .?) on the east side!

raw fisher purple line debate: the real no-spin zone

Definitely check out this week's edition of Raw Fisher Radio, featuring Councilmember George Leventhal and Chevy Chase mayor Kathy Strom duking it out over the Purple Line and Capital Crescent Trail (pictured). Marc Fisher's always been good at calling bullshit on anything he thinks lacks merit, so it's pretty amazing how willing he's been to sit on the fence in a pair of recent columns on the debate over that oh-so-controversial transitway between Bethesda and New Carrollton.

You wonder if Fisher, a very respected columnist, ever had the urge to smack Strom whenever she tries to talk over him or Leventhal, yelling "I WOULD LIKE TO RESPOND TO THIS!" like she's on the effing O'Reilly Factor or something. Strom's interested in finding the "most cost-effective solution" possible for the Purple Line (in her case, using Bus Rapid Transit along Jones Bridge Road) which is ironic, because it seems like choosing to live in Chevy Chase is not a "cost-effective solution" to housing compared to settling in more affordable locales like, say, New Carrollton. And so far as I know, the City of New Carrollton has not spent four hundred grand to find said "cost-effective solution" to the Purple Line.

Nonetheless, Leventhal and Strom do acknowledge that the fight over whether and where to build the Purple Line has been a clean one. And if it weren't for all of the accusations of "No Train on Wayne" yard sign theft on some of the Silver Spring-area listservs, I might believe it. But if you have a half-hour to spare, give them a listen and afterwards, read Wayne Phyillaier's [pro-light rail] re-cap of it on Finish the Trail.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

giant scanners defeat boring grocery store experience

"We've got fresh ideas, and great value, too . . ."

It's old news, but I still can't get over Giant's new purple-and-yellow logo, which the company calls "intentionally vague" but "generally associated" with being positive, according to the Post. (Is "generally positive" the best we can hope for after years of declining product quality and customer service?)

We haven't started calling it Stop & Shop yet, but to me, the loss of the Big G is every bit as earth-shattering as the loss of Hecht's or Woodies or even Hechinger's (and now Chevy Chase Bank), despite the fact that I do not remember having ever set foot in a Hechinger's - and Hecht's and Woodies were, for a six-year-old me, solely places to hide in clothing racks while my mother shopped.

I did, though, notice that my local Giant in Colesville has these neat scanner-things that let you ring up the groceries while they're still in your cart. For a six-year-old me suddenly in the body of a twenty-one-year-old, this is like manna from heaven. It's not just a scanner - it's a ray gun, and your only weapon for defeating the evil vegetable hordes from devouring your grocery cart! (Did I play this game at the grocery store? Absolutely.)

Still hate your new logo, Giant, but totally enjoy the re-introduction of play to the shopping experience.

five for the pike: the perpetual building, in perpetuity?


A weekly list of five things to do/see/make happen in East County, compiled by JUTP. This week, it's five reasons to save the Perpetual Building at Georgia and Cameron in Silver Spring, whose clean Modernist fa├žade makes this fifty-year-old edifice bulldozer bait to some and a community cornerstone to others. Credit's due to Jerry McCoy of the Historical Society, who has written in favor of preserving the Perpetual Building.

1) Aesthetics aside, the Perpetual Building is good urbanism.

With a large, monumental entrance on Georgia and big windows along Cameron Street, inviting passers-by to see what's going on inside, the Perpetual Building has a godo street presence. Not only does it send a message of transparency (good for any bank to have), but it means fewer blank walls along the sidewalk, a definite no-no in a business district. It also doesn't hide behind a parking lot, like the restored Silver Spring Shopping Center at Georgia and Colesville. Very few people would say the 1938-vintage strip mall is "ugly," but even fewer would say it contributes to the urban realm in Downtown.

2) As Jane Jacobs says, it's a supply of old buildings that keeps the business district affordable.

If I'm breaking out the name of the author of the Death and Life of Great American Cities, you know I mean business. Downtown Silver Spring's new and recently-updated office and retail buildings can charge hefty rents, pricing out small businesses. While the County-funded Innovation Center, a small business incubator at Georgia and Blair Mill, helps to support the mom-and-pops, there's no real substitute for the more affordable digs provided by older buildings. The Perpetual Building already does that for a number of small businesses, including the Cameron Medical Group and the Tappers With Attitude dance studio.

what could replace the Perpetual Building? photos and so much more AFTER THE JUMP . . .



3) There are much, much worse buildings Downtown. Shouldn't we try to save one that works?

When it comes to urbanism, the bar's been set pretty low in Downtown: lifeless, sunken or elevated plazas (Silver Spring Metro Center, Montgomery Court); single-use buildings (the Discovery Building); gratuitous use of blank walls or, worse, glass curtain walls (the Veridian apartments (pictured), just about every office-box north of Colesville). All of these buildings do a poor job of contributing to the urban realm, killing street life and taking away from the vibrant Downtown we deserve. The Perpetual Building may look like a sleepy office building, but it doesn't make the same mistakes the other sleepy office buildings do, making it that much more important to the CBD.

4) Just because it's "ugly" doesn't mean it can't be saved.

I'm not a member of the "Perpetual is Ugly" camp. In fact, I enjoy the building's clean, simple lines and its heavy marble base. You won't find marble on a lot of other office buildings from this time period, especially those in Downtown Silver Spring, and it shows a lot of care and effort went into it. If the site needs more density for the numbers to work out - and it probably does, because land is expensive - than the developers should consider an addition, as was done to the former Perpetual branch on Wisconsin Avenue in Bethesda. With high ceilings and large floor plates, the Perpetual Building would make a lovely loft condominium - though, of course, this does contradict what I said in #2.

What's proposed to go up at Georgia and Cameron: photo courtesy of the Silver Spring Scene (duh).

5) What's currently proposed to replace the Perpetual Building isn't an improvement.

Blank walls, more glazing than a chocolate donut, and a color scheme that looks like it was ripped from Saved by the Bell: aesthetically and urbanistically, the Perpetual Building's proposed successor (as reported by the Scene nearly two years ago) is pretty god-awful. That's not to say, of course, that the merits of preserving this building should be based on what would take its place - but as we've established with the Falkland Chase redevelopment, new buildings in Downtown Silver Spring are obligated to improve on the business district in some way. Before we call on the bulldozers, let's make sure that whatever happens at Georgia and Cameron is really worth going forward with.