Wednesday, September 30, 2009

retirees pass up leisure world for the real world

Riderwood Village Gate
My favorite aunt lives in Columbia Heights. She is retired, if retirement means collecting antiques to sell and working at a bank just to meet people. She and my uncle, who is officially retired, circumnavigate the District by foot and Metro, seeing friends, running errands, and simply enjoying the city. My mother, in her work appraising short-sale houses, recently discovered how cheap it is to buy a place in Leisure World, the city-sized, gated retirement community at Georgia and Norbeck. And she's taken it upon herself to convince her sister and brother-in-law that they should finally move to the suburbs.

Convinced that somehow I'd talk them out of it, my mother drove me around Leisure World to stop me from meddling in her meddling. "Look," she says, "it's so pretty! They can walk around." (We see a guy in a golf cart, a woman watering her lawn, but no one walking.) "But there aren't any sidewalks," I reply. "How will they get to the grocery store?" "They can drive there," my mother said.

You see, old people are cool now. (My aunt is not quite old, but still cool.) They play Nintendo Wii and write blogs and laugh at the line of Buicks snaking from Riderwood Village to the McDonald's across Cherry Hill Road, all with their blinkers going. Pretty soon most retirement homes will look like my freshman-year dorm but with an earlier bedtime. And as the baby boomers get older, I seriously wonder if places like Leisure World or Riderwood will stay relevant.

Earlier generations of seniors loved these places because they were safe, self-contained, and filled with people like them. Leisure World has three gated entrances, two golf courses and a shopping center. Riderwood's nineteen apartment buildings and "Town Center" clubhouse are connected by skybridges, relieving their occupants of even having to go outside. If you can drive, these places are fine. But if you can't or don't want to drive, you're basically screwed. My aunt hasn't driven in fifteen years. Why would she and my uncle move from Metro-accessible Columbia Heights to a cul-de-sac three miles north of Glenmont? It's not like they've got kids and are worrying about schools and bedrooms.

There's nothing wrong with retirement homes. Why shouldn't I want to hang out with people who remember the same old songs I do and also have plenty of time to kill? But when those retirement homes morph into retirement compounds, where I've got a security guard keeping the rest of the world at bay, I'm not as enthused. Nor are people who actually are retired. Today's seniors are "aging in place," hiring local builders to retrofit their old homes to make them safe for years to come. Or they're banding together with fellow retirees to form "naturally occurring retirement communities," as one Fairfax County neighborhood is doing.

Or they're tackling the physical form of the neighborhood itself, bringing a little piece of the city to the suburbs where they raised families decades before. Outside of Atlanta, Fayetteville and Mableton are both turning their strip-malls into retiree-friendly town centers, building sidewalks, mixing uses, and increasing density so that everything is within walking distance. The end result won't be too different than what we already have here in Downtown Silver Spring or Rockville Town Square. But bringing retirees into the discussion recognizes that they stand to benefit from good urbanism as well, whether it's freedom from driving or from budget pressures:
"Space is something we thought we had to have" in the suburbs, says Ms. Trammell, age 74. "But we can't afford that today—time-wise or money-wise. Putting a single house on a one-acre lot means more street in front of that house, longer electric and gas lines to run to the house, more yard and shrubs to cut, and a bigger property-tax bill for the owners. We're all tired of that. I know I am."
The city, it seems, is where the young and old meet. Sort of. There are large groups of both who want walkable, accessible, sociable places, but I don't know if how many seniors would move to Adams Morgan, as walkable, accessible and sociable it is. But they're already moving to neighborhoods in the District and throughout the region that provide some form of urban life. These are places that provide the low-maintenance lifestyle retirees want and need with the independence that communities like Leisure World and Riderwood can't offer.

It's not surprising that baby boomers are turning away from gated retirement complexes to real neighborhoods. After all, they're more likely than I am to remember a time when people weren't stuck in their cars. And it allows them to live out retirement with the same vitality they've always enjoyed. As for my aunt and uncle, they still haven't moved to Leisure World. "Why would I want to live out there?" She keeps asking. "The houses are nice, but we don't need all that space."

what's up the pike: our 15 minutes of fame

- Master photographer/friend of JUTP Chip Py snapped this photo of filmmaker Michael Moore as he premiered his new film Capitalism: A Love Story at the AFI Silver Theatre Monday night. Free tickets for the show handed out that afternoon were gone in seventeen minutes, according to the Silver Spring Penguin. Meanwhile, commenters on Jerry McCoy's blog say that Moore handed out signs saying "Capitalism Did This" for fans to display, which appeared across the CBD. One hangs from chain-link fences on Thayer Avenue encircling the future Studio Plaza development.

Will I see his movie? I fondly remember seeing Fahrenheit 9/11 in a packed theatre at the AFI on the 4th of July five years ago, thinking "Wow! Only in Silver Spring can I sit in a room with four hundred liberals and scream at the president!" Then a few days later I saw it again on a bootleg in my old barber shop at Georgia and 13th. I guess that means I'll probably end up seeing it regardless of what I do.

- Howard County Executive Ken Ulman tells the Baltimore Sun that he'd like to widen Route 29 Further Up The Pike in Columbia if the money was there. While that may sound like relief to those bearing "Choose Civility" bumper stickers as they crawl through MoCo at rush hour, I'm not sure how it'll improve traffic conditions down here. Like the road widening, making major transit improvements Howard might be cost-prohibitive, but Howard could do better in the meantime to run more commuter buses between Columbia and Silver Spring.

- Saturday's another big day in Downtown Silver Spring. In the morning, head over to Fenton Street Market between 9am and 2pm and check out wares from your neighbors' studios and attics alike. It'll be the last one on the parking lot at Fenton and Silver Spring Avenue before condos are built there, or next spring, whichever comes first.

- (And in between, join myself and Buy Local Silver Spring for a walking tour of small businesses, leaving the Fenton Street Market at 2pm!)

- After that, it's the third-annual South Silver Spring Block Party, held on several blocks around the intersection of Newell and Kennett streets. There will be live music, over fifty local vendors, an "international food court," not to mention a beer garden. The party starts at 1pm and officially ends at 6 but, as all Silver Spring get-togethers tend to, it'll probably devolve into a kegger (sans keg) and last much longer.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

daily snapshot: dementia care

'Over 15 Years of Dementia Care'
Our subdivision is adjacent to Arden Courts, a retirement home specializing in, well, dementia care. It seemed harmless at first. And Arden Courts was generally a quiet neighbor until we heard the helicopters over our house. Everyone comes out into the cul-de-sac. I heard it was the police, someone says. One of the old people escaped. The kids stifle laughs, newly aware that the best jokes are those you're not supposed to laugh at. Phones ring inside, and on the other end, a voice instructs us to look out for an elderly woman in a pink sweater. It's Alzheimer's. She doesn't know where she is. If you find her, give us a call.

We never found her on our street, though someone else probably did and everyone lived happily ever after. It is true that cul-de-sacs discourage through traffic, if people who are lost and disoriented can't even find us.

silver spring walking tour

If you're planning to spend this Saturday at the Fenton Street Market and South Silver Spring Block Party, you've probably given some thought to how you'll get between the two events, separated by a few blocks that can make for a pretty long walk. If you'd like to make that passage with a little company, join me and Paula Sternberg from Buy Local Silver Spring for a walking tour of small businesses (like Jackie's Restaurant on Sligo Avenue, pictured above.)

We'll take you through Fenton Village and South Silver Spring, showing you the local stores and restaurants everyone's talking about (or haven't heard of, earning you serious bragging rights) with a healthy dose of neighborhood history and news. Paula says we'll have a bullhorn, which is especially exciting. Whether you know Downtown like the back of your hand, or you're curious to see what it's got to offer, you should definitely tag along.

Meet us at the Fenton Street Market - located at Fenton and Silver Spring Avenue - a little before 2pm, and we'll start the tour when we've got a little crowd.

Monday, September 28, 2009

rain still does not threaten burtonsville day celebration

Burtonsville Day is the one time a year Burtonsville looks like the "small town" it purports to be the rest of the time. For all the people who come out each year for the parade up Old Columbia Pike and festival at the Praisner Center, I wonder how many don't even know what it is. My own parents, who've lived here for ten years, had no idea what Burtonsville Day was until I was in it this year. What I didn't know last July when I took my current job that my duties would include driving the official George Leventhal parade float SUV (at left) as the Councilmember and his son rode on top.

The Parade at Old Columbia and Greencastle
Nancy Navarro and the Zipcar
LEFT: County Councilmembers on parade down Old Columbia Pike, from left to right: Phil Andrews, Nancy Navarro, Nancy Floreen and Marc Elrich. (I am driving George Leventhal's car while taking this photo.) RIGHT: District 4 Councilmember Nancy Navarro rode in a rented Zipcar.

Tents at Praisner Center
Going to more and more events in Downtown Silver Spring has spoiled me, I think, because it seemed like there wasn't enough activity at Burtonsville Day. I'm convinced that it was smaller than last year's Burtonsville Days - which included a movie Friday night and a fashion show Saturday afternoon - but I can't really tell.

East County Regional Services Center

Anne Kaiser and Alison Praisner Klumpp
The East County Regional Services Center booth - staffed by assistant director Chuck Crisostomo, director Joy Nurmi, and advisory board member Benoy Thomas (at left) - was a stopping point for local luminaries, among them state Del. Anne Kaiser and Alison Praisner Klumpp, who was eating a hot dog when I asked her for a photo but quickly hid it (at right). Joy and Chuck insisted that this year's Burtonsville Day was far, far bigger than last year's, which was threatened by rain. Of course, it rained like hell this year, too. So I don't really know, but I'll defer to the optimists, I guess.

Epiphany Lutheran Plant Stand
I used to joke that East County was the "Bible Belt" of MoCo, and for good reason. (Just look at this Google map in which I searched for "church" in Burtonsville.) One out of every six booths (there were thirty-six in total) at Burtonsville Day were for one of the area's many houses of worship. The majority of them were seeking to fill pews, but Epiphany Lutheran Church on Old Columbia Pike was selling flowers.

Kid Yawning In Food Line
Of course, the biggest attraction is always the food, provided by the Burtonsville Lions. You can smell it all the way up and down Old Columbia Pike, filling the nasal gap between where you stop smelling Old Hickory Grille at 198 and where you start smelling Marina's Pollo a la Brasa at Briggs Chaney Road. This kid definitely wanted a couple more hours of sleep, but hopefully a hamburger will wake him up.

If I took any photos you haven't already seen, they'll probably be in this nifty slideshow.

what's up the pike: all kind of jeans

Two-Story Storefronts, Fenton at Silver Spring
Happy Yom Kippur, East County! If you're actually observing the Jewish day of atonement, you're probably not reading this blog right now. Nonetheless, here's a look at what's happening this week:

- This week is ZONING WEEK! at the Planning Department, and county planners want your input as they re-write our decades-old zoning code. They're having a public listening session at 7pm on Wednesday Tuesday in the Fortress of Planning, located on Georgia Avenue at Spring Street.

- Saturday's another big day in Downtown Silver Spring. In the morning, head over to Fenton Street Market between 9am and 2pm and check out wares from your neighbors' studios and attics alike. It'll be the last one on the parking lot at Fenton and Silver Spring Avenue before condos are built there, or next spring, whichever comes first.

- After that, it's the third-annual South Silver Spring Block Party, held on several blocks around the intersection of Newell and Kennett streets. There will be live music, over fifty local vendors, an "international food court," not to mention a beer garden. The party starts at 1pm and officially ends at 6 but, as all Silver Spring get-togethers tend to, it'll probably devolve into a kegger (sans keg) and last much longer.

- Next month, Moorenko's Ice Cream is hosting an open mic series for the kids, filling a void for youthful expression in Downtown Silver Spring. The Art N Soul Teen Open Mic will be held the first Friday of every month, starting next Friday, October 9 at 7:30pm. Can't help but wonder if The Kids would benefit from an open mic open to everyone (it's always good to learn and work alongside those who've been there before). Moorenko's is located at Georgia and East-West Highway, next to Arts Alley.

- Hey, scroll back up and check out our new label categories! In an attempt to make JUTP as hyperlocal as possible, I've started filing posts by "neighborhood," allowing You, The Reader to separate the wheat from the chaff and read things that only apply to your locality. "But why don't I see North Hills of Silver Spring Oak Park Estates/[enter subdivision here] on the list?" you might ask. Perhaps that's a little too local. BUT if you want to see that kind of stuff here, let me know! Send any tips you've got to just up the pike at gmail dot com.

Friday, September 25, 2009

get ready for zoning week!

Park and Planning Steals My Picture
Better get ready for ZONING WEEK!, starting this Monday at the Fortress of Planning. Writer for Greater Greater Washington and The New Gay/Former sort-of classmate/friend of JUTP Matt Johnson (who also happens to work for Park and Planning) sent me this e-mail demanding our preparations:
Montgomery County is rewriting its zoning code (for the first time since 1977). This is a major undertaking, lasting for about 3 years. The process should end in the fall of 2010, hopefully with adoption and implementation in early- to mid-2011. The hope of the Planning Commission is to create a simpler, progressive, workable code.

And we want input from the public.

We've hired a consultant team to assist with the writing of the new code. They'll be in town in a week and a half for "Zoning Week."

We're having a public listening session on Wednesday September 30 at 7PM in the Planning Board Auditorium, 8787 Georgia Avenue (at Spring Street), Silver Spring, MD 20910. This session is for the public to come and tell the Planning Commission and our consultants what they think of the code and the rewrite.
With over a hundred zones - some of which apply only to a single property - the county's Planning Department has made it a goal to streamline its hefty zoning code. In January, staff produced Zoning Discovery, which recommended having fewer, less prescriptive zones; matching zones more closely to the places they cover; and creating a set of easy-to-understand "fact sheets" for each zone, complete with pretty pictures and diagrams.

But apparently the Fortress of Planning doesn't have a very good photo library, because many of the pretty pictures in Zoning Discovery come from Google StreetView. One of them is even a photo I took of this dopey-looking house that appeared in a JUTP post three years ago.

I'd be all like, "Hey, Park and Planning, could I get some compensation - or even a photo credit - for that?" But why get mad when you can get even? What they don't know is . . . the house isn't even in Montgomery County! So take that, Planning Department! Putting photos of houses in Cross Creek Club over a block across the Prince George's County line in your documents? You just got punk'd during your very own Zoning Week.

what's up the pike: this time, it's too far

SSTOP! Signs

- Seriously? MPW reports that Purple Line opponent and Seven Oaks resident Jonathan Jay attempted to assault MTA's Mike Madden at a community meeting Wednesday night. "He told me that I 'could go to hell' as he swung my arm back forth as hard as he could," says Madden. "If I was less sturdy or if he did this to a woman, I believe he would have caused harm." This is a testy issue, y'all, but there is no sense (and no honor) in trying to use your fists to get a point across.

- If you've got plans this Saturday, skip them and go to the 19th Annual Burtonsville Day Celebration. There's a full day of events, with a charity walk through the Greencastle Lakes neighborhood at 8am, a parade up Old Columbia Pike at 10am and a festival at the Praisner Center with food, performances and an auto show. For more updates, check out the Burtonsville Day fan page on Facebook.

- And in Silver Spring, the Magical Montgomery Festival returns for the ninth year on Ellsworth Drive. Attractions include more food, more live entertainment, and so-called "mini-parades," which sounds kinda disappointing to me (wink wink). For a preview, check out a slideshow from last year's event, or RSVP on Facebook.

- Why does "family-friendly" interior decorating have to look so, uh, repellent? That's what I'd ask this Hillandale-based designer, profiled in last Sunday's Post. I mean, Andy Warhol-style wall portraits of you and your kids? Talk about self-indulgent, not to mention passé. I think I'm going to side with Silver Spring, Singular for once and send Hillandale (except for Urban Bar-B-Que) to the land of Silver Spring In Name Only.

- But what I can't endorse from Singular is the implication that Kanye West would imply that Takoma Park is to Beyoncé as Silver Spring is to lame pizzerias . . . or something like that. (I don't really understand what The Kids are talking about anymore.) Clearly the best local pizza is Lucero's in Fulton, and if you don't believe that, you're either wrong or you don't go to Howard County enough. (Or Ledo's, of course, though I don't like pizzas with corners.)

Thursday, September 24, 2009

daily snapshot: by the pound

Drycleaning By The Pound
They also offer tailoring by the yard, tuxedo rental by the square foot, and a free oil change with every gallon of detergent you buy. How's that for one-stop shopping?

This is in the shopping center at Piney Branch Road and Flower Avenue (you know, the one with Veronica's Bakery).

indian spring redevelopment ties surrounding neighborhoods together

Poplar Run (Former Indian Spring) Sign

Located at the end of a long driveway off Layhill Road, Indian Spring Country Club looked exclusive, but it opened its doors to the community, hosting everything from fundraisers to political events. It was the site of my high school's junior and senior proms, where you could hang out on the deck overlooking the fairways (while all the "popular kids" danced and made out inside) feeling like you owned the place. Indian Spring was cheaper than the area's more exclusive country clubs, and for decades served as the center of Jewish social life in Montgomery County.

Indian Spring has been closed for nearly three years now as construction begins on Poplar Run, a 773-home planned community that will take its place. Photos by Flickr user martymix, who documented the course while open and after it closed (via breaking in) reveal how quickly the grounds 50's-era clubhouse deteriorated from lack of use. While Indian Spring's history may be gone, its culture of openness will remain in the way Poplar Run has been laid out to encourage connections within and outside the new development.

The old country club's layout doesn't easily lend itself to housing, with just a long, narrow driveway leading from Layhill Road. Three of the four neighboring subdivisions have streets that dead-end at the club property, all of which will eventually continue into Poplar Run. The civic associations have been very upset about this, notably Tivoli to the south, which enlisted the help of their state delegates to push the argument that it would clog their streets and make it unsafe for children to play outside.

Tivoli was built in the 1980's. It's a typical suburban subdivision in that you don't see a single house facing Tivoli Lake Boulevard, the main street which will also become the spine of Poplar Run. Behind the trees on either side of the road, everyone's tucked away in a little pod, efficiently segregated by home style and income level. (And each pod has its own name: Tivoli Woods, Tivoli Villas, and Tivoli Estates for the largest homes.) It's a gorgeous neighborhood, but one that sends a message strong and clear that outsiders aren't welcome here.

Poplar Run Site Plan (Former Indian Spring CC)
Site plan of Poplar Run.

Though it'll be right next door, the layout (click here for a larger version) of Poplar Run couldn't be more different. There are only a handful of culs-de-sac; the majority of homes face through streets that connect to each other and to the surrounding neighborhoods. Townhomes and single-family homes share the same block, integrating households with different incomes. A plurality of homes put parking in the back, creating more pedestrian-friendly streets. The subdivision is littered with small "pocket parks" and vistas of the adjacent Northwest Branch and Bel Pre Creek.

At the center is a public square, a space that will hopefully encourage informal gatherings. Along with a series of roundabouts - including one in Tivoli, part of a compromise used to win that neighborhood's support - it'll also help slow down traffic, discouraging cut-throughs. Winchester Homes has even offered to pay for an extension of Ride-On Route 31 into the development, providing a one-seat ride to Glenmont and Wheaton.

Lots Of Nature at Ashton Preserve
A common area at Ashton Preserve, another Winchester Homes development in East County.

It goes against the suburban status quo to say that connecting your cul-de-sac to mine might reduce traffic. After all, there's already no traffic on a cul-de-sac because it doesn't go anywhere. But the traffic ends up somewhere - on overburdened arterial roads like Randolph and Layhill, which have to carry local trips along with through trips as well. In an area less than a mile from the Glenmont metro station and clogged with commuters heading west to Rockville and south to the District, requiring people to get on Layhill Road for a gallon of milk is a waste of road capacity.

It's better to keep local traffic on local streets and allow major roads to carry the cars they were built to handle. The network of connecting strets that Poplar Run completes allows residents of all four neighboring subdivisions to travel to parks, schools, stores and even the Metro while barely using Randolph, Layhill or Bonifant roads. And it's not just for cars: more interconnected streets mean more routes for pedestrians and bicyclists, too, who especially benefit from alternatives to wide, unsafe arterials.

In this built-up area, three hundred acres doesn't just appear out of nowhere, so when an opportunity comes to redevelop such a large property, it has to be done right. I'd argue that many of the issues East County grapples with - from traffic to tension between different socioeconomic groups - would be solved if our neighborhoods actually connected to each other. We cocoon ourselves in our private subdivisions and wonder why the world outside them is so unpleasant. It's because we've forgotten to consider the common good, and how individual decisions can have a positive or negative effect on others.

While Winchester Homes had their own reasons, both altruistic and selfish, for making the choices they did in Poplar Run, they'll have benefits far beyond this community when completed.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

daily snapshot(s): come sail away

Woodside Church Steeple

There was this big red jungle gym at Woodside Park shaped like a boat, and I spent many a summer evening climbing all over it. I loved that thing, as I did the train, the bouncy duck thing, the stone pavilion. (That served as my play-house, which I would emerge from each play-morning to go to play-work on the boat.)

But progress is as cruel as it is relentless, and much as I saw the apartment building of my youth given over to sushi-clad women, I would be pained to see Woodside Park shed its old skin as well. The boat, so to say, hit an iceberg and sunk. Shame I never bothered to take a real photo of it.

New Play Equipment at Woodside Park

I think I just saw my childhood carted away.

Broken Old Playground

That's not to say, of course, that the play equipment at Woodside Park looks a lot more ragged than it did fifteen years ago, and that people aren't dropping three grand a month on an apartment here to send their kids to play on a plywood-covered jungle gym.

And I figure kids probably don't even like boats anymore (Pirates of the Caribbean notwithstanding), because there aren't any screens or buttons or WiFi connections on them.

what's up the pike: all's fall that ends fall (updated)

Big Fall Trees, Hickory Leaf Way

- JUTP has a competitor: it's District 4 Councilmember Nancy Navarro, whose new blog The District 411 beat us to mentioning the City Paper's mention of a new restaurant in Sandy Spring called Urban Bar-B-Que. This will be the local chain's first branch in District 4, joining current locations in Rockville and Hillandale. No word yet on whether the Councilmember will do interviews of Montgomery County Councilmembers.

- Now that the ICC is inching towards completion, talk's gone from fighting the highway to what it'll be like driving it. Those who live near Georgia and Norbeck, where the ICC's first phase will belch traffic onto local roads before the remaining four phases open in 2012, literally fear for their lives. Leisure World residents are scared that "that backups will entangle ambulances between their retirement community and Montgomery General Hospital in Olney," writes Post reporter Katherine Shaver.

Update: the Maryland Transportation Authority released their toll estimates for the highway, saying it'll be up to 35cents/mile during rush hour and 30 cents/mile the rest of the time. That's about $6.58 to drive the 18.8-mile road from end to end.

- Someone needs to lighten up: a "local farmers' market" (we're guessing Kensington) refused to let Snoburbia sell their t-shirts satirizing life in affluent communities like Kensington, Bethesda or Potomac. Have they considered setting up a booth in the satire-tolerant Fenton Street Market?

- Tomorrow, the Urban Land Institute talks about how to revive the Wheaton CBD at 5pm, followed by a presentation at 7pm of plans to build a mixed-use complex atop the Safeway at Georgia and Reedie similar to the CityVista project in the District. Both of those meetings are at the Crossway Community Center at 3015 Upton Drive in Kensington.

- In case you missed it: swing by Greater Greater Washington for a (edited and condensed) re-cap of our series on a controversial affordable housing proposal in White Oak.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

I do not speak amharic

Amharic Sign, Fenton at Bonifant

I was at the Fenton Street Market last week talking to Megan from IMPACT Silver Spring and a little kid, about eight or so, comes up to me and shakes my hand. "Selam," he says. "What's up?" I reply. He frowns. "He just learned Amharic," says Megan. "Are you Ethiopian?" he asks. When I say no, he's really disappointed.

I am half-Black (where, specifically, I don't know) and half-Indian, a combination that my [Indian] aunt says looks Ethiopian. So I get this a lot, especially in East County, where our many Ethiopian restaurants and coffee shops are giving Shaw's "Little Ethiopia" a run for its money. "Are you Ethiopian?" asks the cashier at the convenience store when I hand him my picture ID. "Because Daniel is a very Ethiopian name." (One of the few Ethiopian people I know also is named Daniel, so it works.)

"Are you Ethiopian?" asks a girl at Wheaton High School I met on a job interview there last spring. She's been in the country for less than a year and is more than a little uncomfortable at a school where most of her classmates are Latino. And I can't get her to talk to me until she looks me in my big, not-Ethiopian eyes, and her face lights up. Then I put the flame out by saying "No, sorry."

My Indian side I understand: family emigrated from India to South Africa to Guyana to Rockville (yeah, I know) to D.C. The other half? No clue. I imagine it may look a little like Roots. Kinda wish I was Ethiopian so I'd at least know what that part of me was. And hey, I might even know Amharic, too.

Though now I've learned that selam is basically Amharic for what's up. Looks like I'll be able to fake it, at least for a few seconds.

selling out (this blog was brought to you by . . .)

JUTP has never had a policy on advertising, despite the few businesses that have actually approached me with checkbooks out. I have a friend in New York who's been asking about how I could "monetize" this venture, which would be tempting if I didn't have to report any income earned outside work to the county's Ethics Commission. (Lame.) So in the interest of charity (and cleaning out my inbox), here are some announcements that I was not compensated for in any way, shape or form:

Easter Seals Center
Local elderly rag The Senior Beacon wrote about the new (deep breath!) Easter Seals Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Inter-Generational Center at Spring Street and First Avenue (above), which provides adult day care for those oldsters who don't mind hanging out with kids. (The kids, who stare out the center's big windows at Woodside Park across the street, are unsure whether this is better than a homework club.)

Barwood Taxi, also known as "the only taxi in MoCo," has introduced video screens in the backseats of their cabs that let passengers see their fares and pay them by credit card. Not surprisingly, they'll broadcast advertising. But because County Executive Ike Leggett hasn't gotten enough hits on his YouTube channel, the screens will also show public service announcements from Park and Planning, MCPS, and the Department of Economic Development. In the event that you don't want to see hipster Miracle Whip ads or a video about that time Tiger Woods hosted a golf tournament, the screens come with an off switch.

BusJunction is a website that lets you search for cheap bus fares to cities along the Eastern Seaboard and elsewhere. They don't seem to list any of the buses go to Silver Spring, which is annoying, because the ones that leave from Bethesda are kinda pricey, har har. And in response to horror stories about Chinatown buses (like the one that gave my high school English teacher the flu), BusJunction has added Yelp! ratings so you can find reviews of a service before buying your tickets. It's all "just so you'll never end up on a sketchy bus," according to Matthew, who sent me the e-mail.

Finally: Adventist HealthCare (when they're not building us a hospital in Calverton) is trying to stop the spread of Swine Flu with a new campaign and website, There, you can find the latest updates about the H1N1 virus, info on where you can get the vaccine, not to mention ways to sneeze into your armpit. (I stuff a hanky into mine, just in case.)

Monday, September 21, 2009

daily snapshot: friends don't let friends . . .

Mason Summers Is A Sticker (Wayne at Georgia)
Have you ever walked down the street and said "I went to college with the kid on that sticker!" That seems to happen too often for me. I don't mean "I know kids who resemble the stereotypical emo kid on the sticker"; no, that could apply to anyone who spent time on Ellsworth Drive around 2005 (or talks to the bartenders at the Quarry House - ah, Ellsworth's finest, all grown up!) I mean, I went to architecture school with Mason Summers and, yes, he did have hair like that.

Small world, right? This sticker made my day before I began to wonder if my entire world is contracting around me, until one day everyone I have ever known from preschool to the present-day will live within a few blocks from me (like some nightmarish small town in Western Maryland) and I will run screaming to the nearest airport, taking me away to New York or California or somewhere that I do not recognize the people I see on street signs.

what's up the pike: just one 'day' this year

Burtonsville Days Banner
- If you've got plans this Saturday, skip them and go to the 19th Annual Burtonsville Day Celebration. There's a full day of events, with a charity walk through the Greencastle Lakes neighborhood at 8am, a parade up Old Columbia Pike at 10am (in which I resume my job of driving the official George Leventhal float - er, SUV) and a festival at the Praisner Center with food, performances and an auto show. For more updates, check out the Burtonsville Day fan page on Facebook.

- And in Silver Spring, the Magical Montgomery Festival returns for the ninth year on Ellsworth Drive. Attractions include more food, more live entertainment, and so-called "mini-parades," which sounds kinda disappointing to me (wink wink). For a preview, check out a slideshow from last year's event, or RSVP on Facebook.

- The oft-discussed but slow-moving revitalization of Wheaton takes center stage next week with a series of meetings. On Monday, Park and Planning holds an open house to discuss the Wheaton CBD Sector Plan, which lays out the next two decades of development in the business district. That's at 7pm in the Charles Gilchrist Cultural Center, 11319 Elkin Street.

- And on Thursday, the Urban Land Institute talks about how to revive the CBD at 5pm, followed by a presentation at 7pm of plans to build a mixed-use complex atop the Safeway at Georgia and Reedie similar to the CityVista project in the District. Both of those meetings are at the Crossway Community Center at 3015 Upton Drive in Kensington.

- Speaking of Wheaton: D.C. United has already mentioned interest in putting a soccer arena there, and now another group trying to build a sports arena in MoCo says they're looking for sites in the vaguely-defined "midcounty", which (much like the definition of "East County") could mean anything that's not on a county or state line. What they do say is the location's "near transit," which sounds a lot like Wheaton to me.

Friday, September 18, 2009

daily snapshot(s): the tai lam brick

A Picture
In the weeks after fourteen-year-old Tai Lam was gunned down on a Ride-On bus after a night in Downtown Silver Spring last fall, those who knew and loved him created a makeshift memorial around a lamppost on Ellsworth Drive. The disheveled but startling display forced anyone who walked by to reflect on what had happened. Some thought it was an eyesore; in March, four months after it had appeared, Sligo at Silver Spring, Singular suggested finding a more permanent way to remember the Blair High student.

Finally, one has been created. It's a single brick in the sidewalk along Ellsworth Drive, bearing the name "TAI LAM."

Tai Lam Brick

Is this enough to contain the hopes and dreams of a kid who hadn't even finished his first semester of high school? Or is it a subtle way to remember someone in the place he loved coming to every weekend? It doesn't feel right stepping on his name. On the other hand, long after the rest of us forget what happened on that bus last year, the spot will serve as an almost-secret reminder for those who knew Tai Lam well and forever carry him in their hearts.

Tai Lam Brick (Context)

what's up the pike: a good year

Happy Rosh Hashanah and L'Shana Tova to you, East County! JUTP knows that the Jewish new year doesn't officially begin until sundown, but this blog doesn't post after happy hour, so hope this will suffice. Here's a look at the goings-on this weekend:

- The Dutch Country Farmers Market, currently exiled to Laurel, is considering running shuttles from its former location in Burtonsville. This may not be a bad idea, given that I'm probably not the only one over here who hasn't ventured over to the new store. Can't help but look at the soon-to-be-closed Giant in Burtonsville Crossing shopping center and sigh. (Thanks, Chris Jones!)

- Neighborhood association president Evan Glass posted photos of the pedestrian linkages project in South Silver Spring, which is under construction. When completed, four new streets (warning! PDF file.) - all but one are closed to auto traffic - will break up the neighborhood's large blocks, making it easier for people to reach the handful of stores currently located there. You may have already seen the first phase of the project, known as Arts Alley (pictured above), off Georgia Avenue between Mayorga Coffee and Moorenko's.

- In case you missed it: Silver Spring's home to a Ghanaian king. Peggielene Bartels, a secretary who lives off 16th Street, was declared heir to the throne of Otuam, Ghana, where she'll be in charge of managing the town her family has controlled for decades.

- The New York Times has a statewide listing of places that have violated the Clean Water Act, dumping pollutants into local streams. East County offenders include the Calverton and Kemp Mill swim clubs, the Silver Spring Boys and Girls Club in Four Corners, and a slew of apartment complexes, including four in the White Oak area alone.

- If last weekend's Fenton Street Market wasn't enough for you, there'll be another flea market tomorrow in the parking lot of the Takoma Theatre just across the District line. The organizer's looking for vendors to sell their wares at the event, which will run from 8:30am to 4pm. For more info, call (301) 589-1170.

- Don't forget to check out this week's three-part series on plans to build mixed-income housing in White Oak and why the attempts of local residents to kill the project could actually be hurting our community.

Above photo of Arts Alley by Flickr user ARKNTINA.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

retrofitting suburbia in silver spring

On Tuesday, I gave a tour of Downtown Silver Spring to June Williamson, associate professor at the City College of New York and co-author of Retrofitting Suburbia, a book about recent attempts to redevelop older suburban places. Though it briefly mentioned the July 4 photo protest in DTSS two years ago, Prof. Williamson had never been to Silver Spring before, and was eager to learn more about our community's attempts to remake the place - and about the struggles over public and private space that ensues - for a presentation paper she's writing.

I tried to hit as many local landmarks as I could, from the Discovery Building and AFI Silver to Mayorga Coffee and the Mayor Norman Lane statue, all in yesterday's welcome-but-stifling heat. It's kind of hard to distill 160 years of history and 55 city blocks into a two-hour walk, but I think it worked out, and I have much, much more respect for Jerry McCoy's walking tour of historic Downtown Silver Spring, which he's been hosting monthly for quite a while now.

And of course, I should give a special thanks to one Chip Py, whose now infamous run-in with a security guard two summers ago led to the offer to do this today.

the once and future white oak: part three

White Oak residents are frustrated with plans to build a mixed-income neighborhood next to the future police station on Milestone Drive. But is their anger misplaced? Here's what we should be focusing on in part THREE of our series "the once and future white oak." Check out part ONE | part TWO

Village at King Farm Apartments, Over Retail
The Village at King Farm in Rockville was Montgomery County's first "workforce housing" community.

3) Some concerns are valid, but killing this project is the wrong way to "fix" White Oak.

There are a few points about workforce housing that I wasn't able to make in yesterday's post, namely examples of it in action. The County's workforce housing program operates separately from the MPDU program, with its own website touting their first project, a converted apartment complex in Rockville called the Village at King Farm. (The apartments we showed yesterday are also in King Farm, but not subsidized.)

Here, families making up to $120,000 a year can purchase large, townhouse-style units at prices ranging from $207,500 to $377,500 (warning! PDF file.) based on unit size and household income. Owners are selected from a priority list culled from current MPDU residents, government employees, and so-called "first responders." They aren't allowed to rent the homes out; when they sell, must give 15% of the profits to the County. But in return, they have a home with hardwood floors and granite countertops in a convenient, desirable location near the Shady Grove Metro station.

The workforce housing web page says they'll only be built near Metro stations, allowing those who may rely on transit to bypass the often-high price tag those areas carry. However, a 118-home mixed-income community DHCA has planned on the edge of Olney far from Metro, frequent bus routes or anything else will set aside thirty percent of its units each for MPDUs and workforce housing. By comparison, the Milestone Drive site is far more convenient, within walking distance to several bus routes, the FDA campus, a library, four schools, several parks, and soon a recreation center.

white oak census map - income and apts
Note that White Oak's affluent neighborhoods, shaded darker in this 2000 Census map, are concentrated north of Columbia Pike and west of New Hampshire Avenue. The Milestone Drive site is in the northeast corner of the intersection where they meet.

But that shouldn't negate concerns about the congestion this project could potentially add to Route 29 and New Hampshire Avenue. At the meeting in June, traffic analysts from the County were lukewarm about the possibility of adding a stoplight at New Hampshire Avenue and Heartfields Drive, adjacent to the future police station. This is just one of the improvements the community should push to have incorporated into the project.

This may not be under the jurisdiction of DHCA, but one way to reduce traffic AND improve the area's image is to push for improvements to the White Oak Shopping Center, right across from the Milestone Drive site? This is a place perceived as unsafe after dark where even the Starbucks closed for lack of traffic. We're already generating traffic by driving to Rockville/Columbia/Downtown Silver Spring for the shops and restaurants we can't find here. You'd think that if residents wanted a "better quality of people" in East County they would be targeting fast-food joints the Chick-Fil-A that's going to be built on Tech Road.

White Oak Shopping Center
The White Oak shopping center.

Passing this place on New Hampshire Avenue, you wouldn't imagine that homes on the winding side streets around it sell for upwards of a million dollars. Or that in the 1930's, developers called this area "a community of country estates" and "aristocratic," attempting to set this area as the more exclusive part of Silver Spring. These are demographics that already support steakhouses and bookstores. If you don't think that's enough, go count the number of expensive cars outside the apartment buildings on Lockwood Drive. You'll find out quick that people want nice things no matter how much money they make, and they sure aren't finding them in White Oak.

The effort that the White Oak community has put into trying to kill mixed-income housing on Milestone Drive is misplaced. For starters, it shouldn't rely on finger-pointing at those with lower-incomes, or inaccurate characterizations of affordable housing as "open-air drug markets." It should be directed at producing what we don't have enough of (shopping, jobs and transit) instead of what we have too much of (i.e., affordable housing), because the potential buyers of high-end homes aren't going to pay top dollar for a location with a horrible commute AND nowhere nice to eat.

Everyone, rich or poor, suffers from congestion or a lack of nearby amenities. Reducing housing choices in White Oak only benefits those with fatter wallets. We need to find solutions that make this a stronger community for all parties involved.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

the once and future white oak: part two

Montgomery County's brought in one of the region's premier architecture firms to design affordable housing in White Oak. Why should the community get on board? Because it might make their homes look worse. Check out part TWO of our series "the once and future white oak," or click here to check out part ONE.

2 ) This development won't be like anything we've seen before, or so they say.

King Farm - Torti Gallas
These multi-family buildings - a mix of townhomes and apartments - in Rockville's King Farm neighborhood were designed by Torti Gallas and Partners.

"The problem of crime and drugs is not endemic to affordable housing," said Rick Nelson, head of the Department of Housing and Community Affairs. "It's prevalent in communities with a concentration of low-income housing." Nelson insisted that the complex would cater to a mix of incomes, including homes selling at the market rate, "workforce housing" aimed at households making less than 120% of the County's median income (or $120,000 a year), and other arrangements not described in detail.

DHCA offers homes for rent or for sale, though County Executive Ike Leggett has expressed his preference for for-sale housing, bringing committed homeowners to the neighborhood. But Nelson's vague description of who will live here has many nervous that the DHCA could swap out the higher-priced homes for even more subsidized units, which would be very disappointing. Truly mixed-income communities have proven to be successful at reducing the crime and disinvestment usually associated with those set aside entirely for low-income residents. This socioeconomic diversity is a must-have, and residents should ensure that the County keeps its promise to maintain that.

The DHCA is proposing two schemes, one with 93 apartments in two buildings, and another with 77 townhomes. As designs are refined, these numbers will likely go down. Both plans were created by Torti Gallas and Partners - one of the premier firms doing multi-family homes in the region, if not the nation - and are not only well-laid out but attractive. As architect Erik Aulestia explained, the goal for this and any projects like it is to create neighborhoods where "you can't tell the difference between a market-rate subdivision."

Housing at White Oak - Apartments
Plans of the apartment scheme.

I can appreciate residents' irritation with the apartment proposal, given that it may not seem too different than what currently exists. By concentrating all the units into two multi-story buildings, architects at Torti Gallas were able to use less land with the apartment plan, creating larger buffers from Milestone Drive and from the single-family homes in Sherbrooke. But it also requires more surface parking, creating a "dead zone" that is neither attractive to be in or easy to defend. In this scheme, a proposed neighborhood green is surrounded by the apartments, forming a space that feels like it belongs to those homes alone. It's a less-than-ideal fit for a site surrounded by lower-density housing in a neighborhood with a strong aversion to that building type.

Housing at White Oak - Townhomes
Plans of the townhouse scheme.

As I've written before, the townhouse option would be the best fit for the site, providing a transition between the high-rise apartments to the south and the single-family homes to the north. Aulestia referred to the streets in the plan as "friendly streets," designed as much for the car as it is for the pedestrian. Sidewalks are plentiful. Buildings face greens and squares instead of culs-de-sac. The result is an inviting, pedestrian-friendly community - one that identifies with Sherbrooke, rather than turning its back on them. There's even a neighborhood green accessible to both subdivisions.

This is not the "affordable housing," subsidized or unsubsidized, we've seen in East County before, where buildings float in a no-man's land of parking lots and common lawns that are neither functional nor safe. If this is anything like the firm's previous work, we'll get a neighborhood with an upscale, urban feel, comparable to Seaton Square, Gatestone and Whitehall Square - all new developments in White Oak that have a contingent of subsidized units.

what's up the pike: everybody's changing

New AFI Marquee
- The AFI Silver changed its marquee recently, ditching the sorta-traditional scroller for one with color images and showtimes. If you look at a close-up of the photo you can see that the new display boxes don't nearly cover the marquee, leaving all these rough, sloppy patches in between. I'm not sure why this was necessary, because it's not like I'm gonna be driving by and suddenly decide to see a movie here just because there's a 2:10 showing of Julie and Julia.

- It's a first for District 4: newly-elected Councilmember Nancy Navarro has started a blog, giving constituents and up-close and personal look into . . . well, meetings and stuff, but I'm not going to knock the efforts of the office down the hall from mine. (Better check out that disclaimer at the bottom of the page.) Navarro is the fourth councilmember to keep a blog, following Nancy Floreen, Mike Knapp and Duchy Trachtenberg.

- From the listservs: advocates of re-opening the Stickley Auditorium on Wayne Avenue, which served Blair High School before they moved to Four Corners in 1998, installed a mural there last weekend. The paintings were created by students of Sligo Creek Elementary School and Silver Spring International Middle School, which now occupy the original Blair campus.

- Flickr user obz3rv3r has posted more photos of the ongoing Silver Spring Transit Center construction, which will create a consolidated terminal for dozens of local and regional bus routes, commuter rail, and the Red and Purple lines. Even better, he made a time-lapse video of the construction, taken from an office in one of the NOAA buildings on East-West Highway. The project, still at the "moving dirt around" stage, should be completed sometime next year.

- Don't forget: Bethesda Magazine is holding a "Best of Bethesda" survey, asking readers to pick their favorite things in Bethesda, for these purposes defined as "all of Montgomery County." We're asking that you help the local economy by entering "Silver Spring" for all of the "Favorite Neighborhood in [Bethesda/Chevy Chase/Whatever]" categories. For "Favorite Neighborhood in Silver Spring," just give an honest answer.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

the once and future white oak: part one

New 3rd District Police Station, White Oak
White Oak residents are still fuming over plans to build mixed-income housing next to the new Third District police station above) on Milestone Drive. A pair of Gazette stories say County officials were met with "heavy opposition" at a meeting last month to discuss the project which "dissolved into shouted questions" from the roughly 125 people attending. At another presentation on the plan earlier this summer, I heard residents say affordable housing creates "open-air drug markets" and that a "better quality of people" should live in White Oak.

Their frustration has merit, but these kind of statements only make the community look bad. Over the next three days, we'll look at affordable housing, what the County's proposing in White Oak, and why opposing this project is the wrong way to improve East County. Stay tuned for parts TWO and THREE.

1) Not all affordable housing is the same.

Last summer, Maryland Politics Watch did a five-part series on affordable housing in Montgomery County, suggesting that stiff resistance to it in more affluent areas have resulted in a concentration of subsidized units elsewhere. As a result, eleven percent of the county's Moderately Priced Dwelling Units (MPDUs) are located in East County, mostly in the White Oak and Briggs Chaney areas. (That's still not much compared to Germantown, an area with roughly the same amount of people living here but home to a quarter of the MPDUs.)

Despite how prevalent affordable housing may be in East County, few seem to understand what or where it is. The majority of the homes in White Oak and Briggs Chaney are not subsidized at all. Those that are may have been built under the MPDU program, which requires a portion of new developments to include affordable housing; are owned or managed by the County's Department of Housing and Community Affairs or the entirely separate Housing Opportunities Commission; or are regular homes rented using federal Section 8 vouchers.

Apartments Of White Oak
Most apartments in White Oak, shown above, are not government-subsidized.

Some residents at the meeting accused DHCA of building "Section 8 housing" or conflated the White Oak proposal with the 1960's-era apartments behind the 4th District police station in Glenmont, which is a privately-built complex that pre-dates the MPDU law.

"When folks say 'affordable housing,' people see the stuff they saw on TV and the worst we had of public housing," said Rick Nelson, head of the Department of Housing and Community Affairs, at the meeting in June.

Yes, East County has a chip on its shoulder when it comes to affordable housing. As a woman at the presentation in June lamented, "our lives are defined by the fact that White Oak is White Oak," referring to the concentration of apartments there. But we're selling ourselves short with talk like this. If done right, the project in White Oak could be like nothing we've seen before in East County. And besides, is trying to kill affordable housing really the best way to improve White Oak? We'll look at that more later this week.

guest post: history of the cissel-lee building

Bonifant At Georgia, July 2008
The following is a post from Marcie Stickle, advisory chair of the Silver Spring Historical Society, on the Cissel-Lee Building at Georgia and Ripley. Built in 1922, the historic edifice is undergoing a dramatic renovation to become the new home of ALC, Inc., a Rockville-based translation company. JUTP is always looking for guest blogs. If you've got something to say, send it over to justupthepike at gmail dot com.

Dan & All,

The original 1922 building at 8222 to 8226 Georgia Ave was the "Building that Built Most of Modern Day Silver Spring." Colonel E. Brooke Lee had his North Washington Realty Company on the top floor, and James Herbert Cissel had his Silver Spring Building Supply Co. on the lower floor, with an expansive lumber yard behind the structure and a millworks immediately across Ripley Street.

Lee & Cissel collaborated on institutional, commercial, and residential structures stretching throughout Silver Spring's central business district & beyond. The significant two-story brick structure was Spanish Colonial Revival, all the "rage" at the time. With its unique black slate canopies angled around two sides of the roofline, the Cissel-Lee Building was the ONLY remaining such structure in all of the CBD.

In 1910, James Herbert Cissel was also the founding president of Silver Spring's very first bank. The Silver Spring National Bank (later the Suburban National Bank and, after that, Suburban Trust Co.) was built in 1925 at the corner of Ga. Ave. & Bonifant Street in the Classical Revival Style. (That building is now home to the Bethel World Ministries Church. -ed.) Cissel also donated part of his vast landownings to establish Montgomery County's park system in Silver Spring, as enjoyed along our Sligo Creek.

For sixteen years throughout the 1960's and 70's Throughout the 1960s, 70s and 80s, the renowned Track Recorders had their headquarters on the second floor of the Cissel-Lee Building. Linda Ronstadt, Peaches & Herb, and other musical notables recording there. It's also where the "Mattress Discounters" jingle ("Get a good night's sleep on us . . . Mattress Discounters!") was coined amd recorded!

8222-8226 Georgia Avenue and Ripley Street was the veritable cornerstone and keystone of Modern Day Silver Spring, designed at that time by our very own Silver Spring architects.

Marcie Stickle, Silver Spring Historical Society Advocacy Chair,
and longtime S.S resident, 301-585-3817,

JUTP is always looking for guest blogs. If you've got something to say, send it over to justupthepike at gmail dot com. This post was corrected to say that Track Recorders was open through the 1980s.

Monday, September 14, 2009

market fills the gaps on fenton street

Fenton Street Market Banner
Last Saturday, the first Fenton Street Market was held on a parking lot at Fenton and Silver Spring Avenue. Dozens of hawkers offered everything from handmade toys to bikes and kettle corn, all to the sounds of someone's vintage record collection. The market was the brainchild of Hannah McCann, who lives around the corner from the parking lot. A writer for Architect magazine, she sought to create "something a little funkier than you'd see in downtown Silver Spring," as she told the Gazette last month.

Vendors came from across Montgomery and Prince George's counties, but McCann estimates that forty percent of the booths in last Saturday's market were rented by residents of the 20910 zip code, covering Downtown Silver Spring and surrounding neighborhoods. "There are so many people here who do art," McCann told me at the market. "It's bringing our community together to show what we do."

The parking lot will eventually be home to Silver Spring Park, a mixed-use building that was first approved as the Moda Vista two years ago. McCann says that she's heard complaints that the market will pre-empt the project's completion. But if the property is developed, Fenton Street Market could move somewhere else. "Some people say it's anti-development, but this could be anywhere," she says. "There are a lot of vacant lots in Silver Spring."

A roving flea market could be an unlikely tool for revitalizing the Fenton Street corridor, which has lagged behind the rest of Downtown Silver Spring. It reminds me of the Del Ray neighborhood in Alexandria, where a group of artists fixed up and held temporary showings in vacant buildings along Mount Vernon Avenue, the main strip. When they were rented out, the artists moved onto another space, revitalizing the street one store at a time.

There are as many parking lots as buildings along Fenton Street, each one forming a hole in the streetwall and giving potential visitors fewer reasons to get out of their cars. I can imagine the Fenton Street Market becoming a placeholder for empty lots as they wait to be developed, with each move drawing more and more interest to the corridor. But in the meantime, it'll provide a place for residents to meet and do business. It has "no footprint," McCann. "It's sustainable." And with very little overhead, "it's a beautiful business model," she adds.

The next (and last, for now) Fenton Street Market will be held on Saturday, October 3 from 9am to 2pm. Check out this photoset from last weekend's market.

what's up the pike: monday monday

Nothing Says Bethesda Like This
- Bethesda Magazine is holding a "Best of Bethesda" survey, asking readers to pick their favorite things in Bethesda, for these purposes defined as "all of Montgomery County." There are several categories for "favorite neighborhood," including "Favorite Neighborhood in Bethesda" and "Favorite Neighborhood in Potomac." We're asking that you enter "Silver Spring" for all of them, in the hopes that prospective homebuyers will consider us just a really big annex to Bethesda and the dramatic rise in property values will singlehandedly bring us out of the recession. For "Favorite Neighborhood in Silver Spring," just give an honest answer. This is a serious poll, after all.

- This Thursday, the Planning Board reviews a preliminary plan to build thirteen single-family homes at University Boulevard and Hobson Street in Kensington. The proposal (warning! PDF file.) would extend or connect two streets, Decatur Avenue and Moore Lane, helping to tie the neighborhood together.

- From the listservs: If last weekend's Fenton Street Market wasn't enough for you, there'll be another flea market this Saturday in the parking lot of the Takoma Theatre just across the District line. The organizer's looking for vendors to sell their wares at the event, which will run from 8:30am to 4pm. For more info, call (301) 589-1170.

- And, of course, Fenton Street Market returns to the lot at Fenton and Silver Spring Avenue October 3. Can't wait!

- The oft-discussed but slow-moving revitalization of Wheaton takes center stage next week with a series of meetings. On Monday, Park and Planning holds an open house to discuss the Wheaton CBD Sector Plan, which lays out the next two decades of development in the business district. That's at 7pm in the Charles Gilchrist Cultural Center, 11319 Elkin Street.

- And on Thursday 9/24, the Urban Land Institute talks about how to revive the CBD at 5pm, followed by a presentation at 7pm of plans to build a mixed-use complex atop the Safeway at Georgia and Reedie similar to the CityVista project in the District. Both of those meetings are at the Crossway Community Center at 3015 Upton Drive in Kensington.

Friday, September 11, 2009

daily snapshot: miley cyrus

Miley, Somebody's Veridian Apartment Window

Marilyn and Elvis, Somebody's Veridian Apartment Window

You expect the windows of the Veridian apartments on East-West Highway to be invitations into a world you'll never know, one where the countertops are granite and the furnishings modern and uncomfortable. In fact, the last thing I expected to see walking by was a giant cardboard cut-out of Miley Cyrus staring back at me from the Veridian's second floor. Not Miley, whose alter ego Hannah Montana stares back from T-shirts and backpacks at elementary schools far, far away from the self-consciously hip towers of South Silver Spring.

Keep walking, and you'll see Marilyn Monroe and Elvis Presley staring out from another window. You wonder if it's an inside joke between the residents, who are having a "best cardboard cut-out" contest. Or it's the management, trying their damnedest to make the building look fully occupied in the throes of a Great Recession.

If Miley, Marilyn and Elvis were to live in Downtown Silver Spring, would they have chosen the Veridian? Would they make good roommates? Would Miley and Marilyn get frustrated that Elvis never cleans up after himself in the bathroom?

what's up the pike: death by fast food

What Silver Spring, Singular Calls 'The Worst McDonald's Ever'
- One East County motorist says the new restaurants on Tech Road are putting her in danger. "I take my life in my hands everyday as I drive on Prosperity Drive and then try to cross or turn left on Tech Road," she wrote in a letter to the Gazette. MoCo DOT says they're preparing a traffic study for the intersection of Tech and Prosperity.

- In another letter, Burtonsville resident Chris Miller says he wants to see more live music in the area. "It is clear that the county's zoning, liquor/food percentage rules for restaurants, and the NIMBY factor means people must drive to D.C., Northern Virginia, or Baltimore to see bands," he writes. If he hasn't been already, he might want to check out Chapala Palenque on Route 198, where you can enjoy quesadillas and some tasty local bands as well.

- Takoma Park's started a new marketing campaign dubbed "The New Ave," directing shoppers and developers alike to the stretch of New Hampshire Avenue between University Boulevard and the District line. “Who wants to pay exorbitant prices for basmati rice? At the Indian stores here you can get a two or five-kilo bag for half the price," says mayor Bruce Williams on the website, which includes a listing of local stores and development plans for the area. We're hoping this initiative will get carried up New Hampshire to White Oak, whose many ethnic businesses could benefit from such enthusiastic boosting.

- Of course, tonight is Aretha Franklin at Montgomery College's new Robert E. Parilla Performing Arts Center, located on Georgia at Burlington. According to the website, tickets are still available for the Queen of Soul's 8pm performance at just $75. Aretha will be breaking in the new venue, followed by what appears to be a five-night run of 1976 cult classic The Rocky Horror Picture Show. (Now, don't judge.)

- It's another big weekend in Downtown Silver Spring: Tomorrow, come out to the first Fenton Street Market from 9am to 2pm in the parking lot at Fenton and Silver Spring Avenue. After that, stick around for the sixth-annual Silver Spring Jazz Festival featuring Allen Toussaint and local boy done good Marcus Johnson. That's from 3:30 to 10:30pm, also in a parking lot, this one at the corner of Colesville and Georgia.