Friday, October 30, 2009

the videomakers: reach out and shine



Part FOUR of our exclusive interview with Walter Gottlieb, creator of The Videomakers, a new web series set in Silver Spring. (see part ONE | part TWO | part THREE | part FOUR) Above: the fourth episode. You can see the rest of the series, including newer episodes, at www.thevideomakers.tv.

"The Internet was an opportunity for me to try something narrative and do an experiment in the new media," says Gottlieb. "A lot of my previous work was for an older demographic and I wanted to do something aimed at younger people in their twenties, thirties and forties."

The Videomakers is quickly establishing an online presence, with episodes appearing on the video-sharing sites YouTube, Vimeo and Blip and frequent updates on their Facebook and Twitter pages. The show is featured regularly on the Silver Spring Penguin and even has its own blog. As of earlier this month, the first episode had already received 2,300 views from across the country, Gottlieb says, but he hopes that locals will take to it as well.

"This area could be a fan base for the obvious reasons," says Gottlieb. "It's a wild world out there. And you're competing with forty thousand other web series. I'd like to see it develop as large an audience as possible and earn some revenue and I'd like to see people get a kick out of it. If we get noticed by someone in New York or Los Angeles that wouldn't be so bad either."

"We really want to make this a TV-quality production," Gottlieb says, despite the project's low budget. "When I look at web series on the Internet, if the sound is bad or the lighting is bad or there isn't enough pacing, if the dialogue is stilted, I can't watch it. I want something that would look good enough to go on TV. And I think we've accomplished it."

Gottlieb says that The Videomakers won't stop his Final Cut Productions from making more documentaries in the future. "I wanted to take some of the success we had in celebrating Silver Spring in the nonprofit arena and see if we could translate it into the narrative world," he says. "To still celebrate our sense of place and the fact that Silver Spring is this sort of under-appreciated place."

"It's a big experiment," he adds. "You don't know where it's gonna go, but it's worth a shot."

what's up the pike: big birds, little birds

Big Bird, Little Birds
- Just twelve people showed up at a public hearing for the InterCounty Connector tolling plan in Calverton Wednesday night. But Prince George's lawmakers say the charges to use the 16-mile highway - up to 35 cents a mile, or $6 to drive it from end to end - disproportionately hurt their residents, who according to them are uniformly poor. Meanwhile, the Columbia Talk blog calls B.S. on the suggestion that the ICC's users will be people from "Howard County and Anne Arundel County in their Lexuses." What, don't people in MoCo have nice cars too?

- Over on The Other Pike, Cindy from Rockville Central and others are hosting a Zombie Walk of their own. That'll be this Friday at 7:30pm outside the Apollo Bar at 12 N. Washington Street before lurching through Rockville Town Square.

- And the Rocky Horror Show - a theatrical version of the 1976 cult-film Rocky Horror Picture Show has its second local run this month with the Kensington Arts Theatre. There'll be performances tonight and tomorrow and continuing well into November at the Kensington Town Hall, 3710 Mitchell Street. Check out KAT's website for more info.

- The Wheaton Urban District's starting a weekly flea market. Like the successful Fenton Street Market in Downtown Silver Spring, the Wheaton flea will offer a mix of used goods and locally-made crafts. The first one is this Sunday from 9am to 3pm at Grandview Avenue and Reedie Drive in Downtown Wheaton.

- Cyndy at Photo-Cyn-Thesis reviews Pho Real, the cleverly-named Vietnamese soup joint at Briggs Chaney Road and Old Columbia Pike. "It is very attractively decorated and very clean, and the broth is always fresh and delicious, and never greasy," she writes. Be warned: the post has some terrible, terrible puns.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

daily snapshot: perrywood drive

Perrywood Drive Sign
The roundabout at Old Columbia Pike and Perrywood Drive in Burtonsville, outside Banneker Middle School, was completed about four years ago, but the hand-made street sign remains. I'm not sure who put it up - if it was a temporary measure from the county Department of Transportation, or if some enterprising resident did it themselves.

the videomakers: stranger than fiction



Part THREE of our exclusive interview with Walter Gottlieb, creator of The Videomakers, a new web series set in Silver Spring. (see part ONE part TWO part THREE part FOUR) Above: the third episode.

The Videomakers is the first time Walter Gottlieb had done fiction since studying film at New York University's Tisch School of the Arts. The intervening years had been spent working on documentaries. Anyone who's been here for more than a couple years knows his documentaries of local history, Silver Spring: Story of an American Suburb and Next Stop: Silver Spring, which premiered on PBS in 2002 and 2007, respectively. Even works that weren't about Silver Spring ended up getting filmed here. Heart and Soul, a biography of Broadway composer Frank Loesser, was partially shot at the Tastee Diner. "That was good preparation for totally fictional works," Gottlieb says. "We'd had experience with directing actors, costumes, props."

By last spring, Gottlieb had cast an ensemble of all local "theatre or film commmunity people," he says, hailing from the Baltimore-Washington area - though Jake Koenig, who plays production assistant Joel, would take the bus down from New York to shoot. The first season's ten episodes were filmed over a series of weekends between April and June to accommodate the cast's busy schedules. To meet their time constraints, they had to work fast.

"We shot several episodes at a time. Lots of economies of scale," Gottlieb says. "In Hollywood, to shoot seven pages of script in a day would be a lot. We've shot twenty." He estimates that he spends about a week writing and two weeks with the crew editing each episode, which have been released once every three weeks since August.

The castmembers have "lives, children, other projects," says Gottlieb. Four have had major film roles. Co-star Lee Ordeman, who plays Kevin, will play Gregor Samsa in a D.C. production of Metamorphosis this fall. Even Gottlieb's daughter Arielle, who plays pint-sized intern Jessica, has done TV work. All of the cast and crew members either donated or took discounted rates for their work on the project, keeping costs down on an already low-budget production in the hopes that the series will eventually turn a profit.

The shooting locations, most of which are in or near Downtown Silver Spring, came through friends and connections. Much of the show was filmed at Silver Spring Studios on Wayne Avenue, where Gottlieb used to work. His former trainer offered space at Tactical Airsoft Arena in Rockville as a stand-in for Lowball's production facilities. Some castmembers offered up their apartments for bedroom scenes. And the entire cast and crew spent a weekend in Jessup shooting at the Maryland Correctional Center. "The Maryland Film Office steered us there," says Gottlieb. "They have an entire building they shut down a few years ago after some guards were killed. We camped out there for two full days."

Businesses were surprisingly nice" about letting them shoot there, Gottlieb says. "We'd come in with actors, crew, catering, equipment. But we'd always clean up our toys and leave the place the way we found it."

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

skate debate continues in silver spring and beyond

'K-Town,' Summit at Knowles, Kensington (Cropped)

It's all about skateboarding in this week's Gazette. While Germantown's celebrating the opening of a new skate spot right in their Town Center (despite attempts to go all Giuliani on the little delinquents), one beleaguered office-worker in Bethesda wants one to make her lunch breaks on Bethesda Row more civil.

Meanwhile, Wheaton's formerly untouchable downtown seems to have finally arrived. Local shopkeepers are complaining that the new walkway on Georgia Avenue (where Barry's Magic Shop used to be) has already been "taken over" by skater kids just two weeks after it opened.

And this is a problem because . . .? These kids may not be Ray Picture Framing's target consumers, but I certainly doubt they or the walkway are hurting their business. Downtown Wheaton needs more activity. People need to see that other people are here before they're willing to spend their time or money in the area - and, it seems, the new walkway's already gotten some attention.

That being said, those curmudgeonly residents who complain that it's "a waste of money" are a little right. Unless the path is connected to other pedestrian improvements in downtown, you won't see much more foot traffic because it'll continue to be an unsafe and undesirable place to walk. In the meantime, though, there are far bigger things keeping people from going to Wheaton than a few kids on skateboards.

Skaters Getting Busted
Skaters are regularly chased out of Downtown plazas by security.

And in Woodside, some residents of Woodside are nervous about the proposed skate spot in Woodside Park (the park) at Spring and Georgia - because the Department of Parks says it'll clear them out of Downtown's unused plazas and courtyards. I can appreciate their concern that the skater mob will march up their quiet streets as well.

It seems unlikely that everyone's going to give up their Downtown haunts because, after all, skating's as much about sport as it is about spectacle. You want to see and be seen, and a park several blocks away from the hustle and bustle of Downtown's main streets will not only seem unnecessarily secluded (not to mention too restrictive - how many kids do you see wearing the helmets and kneepads that'll be required here?) but a hassle to get to.

Skater Kids at Colesville and Second
Skaters congregating by the bus stop at Second Avenue and Colesville Road.

I could be wrong, of course. Many of the kids interviewed, sick of being hassled by security guards, feel having a place to go where they can skate and not be bothered is worth going to Woodside Park. You'll probably find that the kids who do go to Woodside Park will be more respectful of the neighborhood than those who will remain Downtown. After all, many of the kids who'll skate in Woodside Park already live nearby, and they aren't going to cut up if adults they know are watching.

The fight between Ruthless Skater Kids and Everyone Else seems to be shifting, as the county finally agrees to make accomodations for them. Police are aware that giving these kids a place to go will keep them out of trouble. And those in neighborhoods that will receive skate spots - one is planned to be built at the new White Oak Recreation Center - should feel comfortable that the right precautions will be taken to make these spaces as unintrusive as possible. I still don't skate (don't like things underneath me that move), but I'm really happy to see new skate spots opening across Montgomery County.

(Before we go, let's take a second to admire the glaring errors in just one of the Gazette stories mentioned here: referring to Woodside as the "downtown Silver Spring neighborhood of Woodside Urban Park," a County official who says skaters like to go to the "first level of an office building on the corner of Georgia and Wayne avenues" - are they inside the building? - and of course the photo, which is supposed to be of the Kensington Skate Park K-Town (pictured above) but is actually a plaza in Downtown Bethesda. Seriously, do Gazette reporters all live in North Dakota, or are they just underpaid and overworked?)

what's up the pike: locke, demosthenes and you


- The website of MC's new Performing Arts Center shows the new facility with buildings that don't yet exist. Next to the venue is the historic National Institute of Cleaners and Dryers at 8021 Georgia, slated to be redeveloped with 210 condominiums. A site plan was approved in 2006, but it's still years away from putting a shovel in the ground. The phantom building also appears on the websites of Silver Spring Downtown and the Bach Sinfonia, which will be performing at the music hall.

- Tomorrow, the Planning Board reviews a draft of the Purple Line Functional Master Plan, which seeks to guide how local neighborhoods will adapt to the proposed transitway between Bethesda and New Carrollton. The plan isn't making development or zoning recommendations but rather suggestions about the appearance of and access to the line's ten planned stations within Montgomery County.

- Six dollars to drive the InterCounty Connector sounds like highway robbery to some and totally justified to others. Both sides get to make their case to state transportation officials at public hearings on the proposed tolling plan this week. The first is tonight at High Point High School in Calverton followed by another tomorrow at Shady Grove Middle School in Gaithersburg. Both events run from 6 to 9pm.

- Over on The Other Pike, Cindy from Rockville Central and others are hosting a Zombie Walk of their own. That'll be this Friday at 7:30pm outside the Apollo Bar at 12 N. Washington Street before lurching through Rockville Town Square.

- And the Rocky Horror Show - a theatrical version of the 1976 cult-film Rocky Horror Picture Show has its second local run this month with the Kensington Arts Theatre. There'll be performances this Friday and Saturday and continuing well into November at the Kensington Town Hall, 3710 Mitchell Street. Check out KAT's website for more info.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

daily snapshot: a. bird

Bird, Ellsworth at Cedar
Birds usually don't like me. After I hit one with my car (Damn thing flew into my windshield. It wasn't my fault!) I guess they all decided to give me hell. But this one let me take a photo. I appreciated that. Thanks, bird!

This is at Ellsworth and Cedar, next to the Town Square Garage.

the videomakers: silver spring's ready for its close-up



Part TWO of our exclusive interview with Walter Gottlieb, creator of The Videomakers, a new web series set in Silver Spring. (see part ONE | part TWO | part THREE | part FOUR) Above: the second episode.

Filmmaker Walter Gottlieb says his new web series, The Videomakers, reflects what people expected to happen after Discovery Communications and the American Film Institute moved to Silver Spring ten years ago. "A lot of nonfiction TV production companies came in to take advantage of it because National Geographic, PBS were already in the area," he says. "It has somewhat dissipated in a way because Discovery . . . they don't use a lot of production companies from Silver Spring."

"It seemed natural to set it in Silver Spring," says Gottlieb, whose family moved to the D.C. area from Hartford when he was a baby. He's lived in Silver Spring since age thirteen and currently lives with his family in the Indian Spring neighborhood. "When I thought about what I knew, what I could write about, the locations I had access to, it all made sense. I wanted to write about my experiences and put a creative spin on it."

"I just think Silver Spring is a fascinating place," he says. "I wouldn't set this anywhere else."

The Videomakers chronicles the day-to-day activities of Lowball Productions, a Silver Spring-based company founded by business partners/former lovers Amanda (Ann Marie Barbour) and Kevin (Lee Ordeman) that makes reality TV shows for networks like the Exculpatory Channel. When the series begins, they're struggling to sell the rights to Top Shots, a reality TV show where bikini-clad women shoot each other with Airsoft guns. Losers are declared "dead" and placed in coffins.

While he meant them to sound funny, Gottlieb says that some of Lowball Productions' shows - like Pets of the Third Reich and Chefs Behind Bars - could probably be made in real life. "I get an education in reality TV by watching with my daughters," he says, citing shows like America's Next Top Model and Flavor of Love. "It is obviously such a ripe format to parody. They all have the same cheesy appeal."

He seeks to skewer the culture surrounding these shows. In a scene from the third episode, the crew tries to see who's on the most prescription drugs, dumping their pill bottles out in an attempt to one-up each other. "There's more than a modicum of truth to that," says Gottlieb. "We're trying to satirize the whole gamut. This web series was conceived as observational humor . . . it made sense to start with the most outrageous thing possible."

To that end, there's no shortage of profanity or bare skin on the show, making this series definitely NSFW. "If you're doing a show in the business I'm in, if you don't have swearing or sexual intrigue, you're not being faithful," says Gottlieb.

the videomakers: a JUTP exclusive interview



Part ONE of our exclusive interview with Walter Gottlieb, creator of The Videomakers, a new web series set in Silver Spring. (see part ONE | part TWO | part THREE | part FOUR) Above: the first episode.

If you're sick of a TV diet consisting of palm trees and year-round tans, Walter Gottlieb has a show for you. The local filmmaker - best known for his documentaries on Silver Spring, has cast Downtown as the Hollywood of documentaries in his new web series, The Videomakers. His Silver Spring is a place where reality shows are born, TV networks shop for talent, and everyone's sleeping with everyone else, all before a backdrop of Metro trains and City Place Mall. It makes you wonder what Beverly Hills, 90210 would've been like if set in creator Darren Star's native Potomac.

Gottlieb, who wrote, directed and produced the series, says he was inspired by a friend who sent him a New York Times article about web shows. "I had been watching a lot of 'quality TV' like Mad Men and Entourage," he says, "and I thought I would try my hand at producing, writing and directing a narrative product in my own way."

Walter Gottlieb at Einstein Bros.


A few weeks ago, Gottlieb and I met for coffee at Einstein Bros. Bagels, discussing the new series, the state of the industry, and why he loves Silver Spring. Over the next three days, Just Up The Pike will recap our exclusive interview and dish on the next great thing to come out of Silver Spring: its very own TV show. If you'd like to check it out, you can watch the first episode embedded above or visit the show's website. (The Videomakers has an extensive online presence, which we'll talk about more in a later post.) We'll see you back here this afternoon for the first installment.

Monday, October 26, 2009

leggett offers early glimpse of new silver spring library

Unveiling The New Silver Spring Library
Rain cancelled many planned activities at the Silver Spring Library's annual BookFest last Saturday, but about sixty residents showed up anyway to catch a first glimpse of the new library, to be built at the corner of Wayne Avenue and Fenton Street. County Executive Ike Leggett, joined by Parker Hamilton, director of the public library system; David Dise, director of the county's Department of General Services; and County Councilmember Duchy Trachtenberg (pictured above) unveiled final designs for the library to a chorus of oohs and aahs.

The new library design, which one local Twitter user called "clean, retro-modern goodness," goes heavy on the metaphors. Part of the building is suspended over a proposed Purple Line station at Wayne and Fenton, forming a canopy that Dise compares to "an open book." Glass curtain walls on three sides of the building were meant to "reflect the openness of government," he adds, while reinforcing a visual connection between inside and out. And the exterior will be clad in glass, steel and limestone "similar to the limestone you'd see in buildings throughout Silver Spring," says Dise.

Library From Wayne Avenue
The library's Wayne Avenue façade includes a canopy meant to look like an open book.

Visitors enter the building through entrance lobbies on Wayne Avenue and Fenton Street before ascending to the library, which occupies the third, fourth and fifth floors of the seven-story complex. The street level will contain a coffee shop and art gallery, with studios for local artists on the second floor. The sixth and seventh floors, meanwhile, will be devoted to community space, including meeting rooms, and offices for several county agencies, including the Department of Health and Human Services.

Outside, a public green at Fenton and Bonifant will compensate for the loss of "the Turf" on Ellsworth Drive, two blocks away. Apartments originally incorporated into the design has been spun off into its own building next door, which will be completed later.

Library From Bonifant and Fenton
The complex will eventually include a Purple Line stop and an apartment building, neither of which have been finalized.

Two projects that may improve access to the library have been incorporated into the design but won't be finished right away, county officials say. A platform for a future Purple Line station will be built along with the library, but until the transitway between Bethesda and New Carrollton is running, the space will be programmed as a public plaza, Dise explained. Leggett also declared that the library will be designed to accommodate a proposed pedestrian bridge from the library to the Wayne Avenue Garage will be built eventually, despite its rejection by the County Council last summer.

Library From Wayne and Fenton
Glass curtain walls on three sides of the library represent the "openness of government," according to David Dise.

As all county buildings are, the library complex will be required to meet LEED Silver standards for environmentally-friendly design. It also incorporates features of passive solar design, with large overhangs on the east and south sides of the building meant to prevent glare during the summer while allowing solar heat gain in the winter.

Site clearing will begin later this year, Dise says, with a groundbreaking to follow next fall. Construction should take about twenty-four months, meaning that the library will hopefully open for business by late 2012. More details, including floorplans and interior renderings, will be presented at a second public meeting, set for Saturday, November 7th from 1 to 3pm in the current library, located at 8901 Colesville Road.

what's up the pike: on the ledge

Sitting On The Discovery Building
- The animal welfare website PetFinder.com hosts its third-annual Discovery Adoptable Pet Event tomorrrow. It's your chance to see "cute, adoptable pets, including dogs and (for the first time) cats" (emphasis theirs) from local animal shelters. If free puppies aren't enough to get you in the door, there's also free food. The event's from 4 to 6pm at One Discovery Place, located at Wayne and Georgia.

- Six dollars to drive the InterCounty Connector sounds like highway robbery to some and totally justified to others. Both sides get to make their case to state transportation officials at public hearings on the proposed tolling plan this week. The first is Wednesday at High Point High School in Calverton followed by another on Thursday at Shady Grove Middle School in Gaithersburg. Both events run from 6 to 9pm.

- And over on The Other Pike, Cindy from Rockville Central and others are hosting a Zombie Walk of their own. That'll be this Friday at 7:30pm outside the Apollo Bar at 12 N. Washington Street before lurching through Rockville Town Square.

- MSN Real Estate says that suburbs are the new slums, but dense, pedestrian- and transit-friendly places with "Main Street charm" like Silver Spring will prevail. Montgomery County hasn't had many issues with stalled developments or abandoned subdivisions as in other parts of the country (sorry, no-growthers) but I have to admit converting McMansions to rooming houses, as is happening elsewhere, sounds kinda cool. (I'll take the kitchen, thanks.)

Friday, October 23, 2009

why kids don't walk to greencastle elementary school

Hampton Hollow Apartments
Briggs Chaney's garden apartments were meant to provide peace and quiet. So why don't residents don't feel safe enough to let their kids play outside?

After two women were murdered on Castle Boulevard last month, should residents be afraid to leave their homes? Police Lieutenant Stephen D'Ovidio doesn't think so.

"Look at Southeast D.C., those places have murders there every day and people still live their lives," he said. "I'm not trying to say there's nothing going on at Castle Boulevard, ... but during the day, I don't see it as being that bad. It's a difference in perception."
That's what he told the Gazette this week after Greencastle Elementary School, many of whose students live along Castle Boulevard in Briggs Chaney, didn't participate in International Walk to School Day October 7. According to Principal Andrew Winter, his students aren't allowed to play outside and his teachers are afraid to be at school after dark.

It's disappointing that kids living in a neighborhood within walking distance of a school don't feel comfortable walking there. This creates a huge burden for the community: the extra cost of buses to carry students who'd otherwise walk; increased obesity as kids are forced to stay inside, deprived of physical activity; and a deteriorating sense of community as people feel they can't trust their neighbors and move away as soon as they can afford to.


View why kids don't walk to greencastle elementary in a larger map


Garden apartments were built through the mid-to-late 20th century with the best of intentions: providing a place where young professionals and families alike could affordably live in a suburban setting. But this didn't take into account the fact that the spread-out, disconnected layout of suburbia isn't sustainable at higher densities. As it's currently laid out, the Briggs Chaney area creates traffic and encourages crime. It's not density; it's design.

A concentration of rental housing creates a revolving door of tenants who aren't wedded to the community. The neighborhood is Balkanized into dozens of self-contained apartment complexes whose residents are physically and psychologically isolated from one another with fences and a lack of road connections. Groups of apartment buildings with no defined public and private spaces make it easy for ne'er-do-wells to prey on unsuspecting residents. This is a place where people don't feel a sense of commitment because the built environment says they don't have need to.

Patio Culture
Residents would feel safer if there were more people outside, like during the East County Community Day, but are discouraged by concerns about safety.

It's also hard to improve conditions across the community because residents are represented by landlords and management offices, not civic organizations. When someone does try to create change - like Dexter Price, a leasing agent and self-defined "activist" at the Windsor Court and Tower Apartments who organized the East County Community Day celebrations - it's usually limited to one complex and ends if the individuals involved switch jobs.

And whether or not reports of crime in Briggs Chaney really make it a less safe place to live, the resulting fear affects everyone, not just those who live there. My brother, who goes to the adjacent Galway Elementary School, where principal Shahid Muhammad says students "do not feel unsafe in their neighborhood." We don't live in Briggs Chaney, but our parents are concerned about crime enough to have my brother ride the bus a mile to school.

Most of East County's community leaders are preoccupied with preventing another Briggs Chaney from happening; i.e., keeping more apartments or affordable housing from being built. But that doesn't really address the issue of what to do with people who already live here and have to deal with a neighborhood that's designed to work against them. Making kids and adults alike feel safe in Briggs Chaney goes much farther than hiring a few more police officers, but the benefits of doing so will be felt all across East County.

what's up the pike: i've heard about the afterlife, but i've never really lived

Skater Kids, Discovery Plaza
If you haven't already, check out this week's posts about pocket parks and skater kids and the future of Burtonsville (which got picked up by Greater Greater, don't you know). Anyway, here's a look at what's happening in East County this weekend:

- Tomorrow, celebrate the Silver Spring Library while catching a glimpse at the bibliotheque's future. The fourth annual Silver Spring Library BookFest returns with a used-book sale, baked goods (not inside, I assume) and a petting zoo. At noon, the "latest design" for the new library planned at Wayne Avenue and Fenton Street will be unveiled. The festival runs from 10am to 3pm in the library, 8901 Colesville Road at Spring Street.

- Of course, Saturday night is the Silver Spring Zombie Walk. They're asking you to meet at the Quarry House, Georgia Avenue at Bonifant Street, at 7:30pm before leaving at 9:30 and staggering up Ellsworth Drive to a screening of Shaun of the Dead at the AFI Silver Theatre.

- While all that's going on, the Bach Sinfonia continues to break in Montgomery College's new Silver Spring/Takoma Park Performing Arts Center with the venue's second-ever performance. Sinfonia performs music from the eighteenth century using instruments and techniques from that period. Check out their latest concert, this Saturday at 8pm, is an exploration of the Baroque concerto, including works by Vivaldi, Handel, and composers that anyone besides music majors wouldn't know.

- And the Rocky Horror Show - a theatrical version of the 1976 cult-film Rocky Horror Picture Show has its second local run this month with the Kensington Arts Theatre. There'll be performances Friday and Saturday both this week and next (which, of course, includes Halloween) and continuing well into November at the Kensington Town Hall, 3710 Mitchell Street. Check out KAT's website for more info.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

"rednecks"

Martín Espada is a poet, of Puerto Rican descent, who grew up in Brooklyn and currently teaches at the University of Massachusetts. Somewhere in between, he wrote a poem called "Rednecks," set in Gaithersburg. Considering what the area around Darnestown Road looks like now, it's hard to imagine that necks here were ever red.

(I met many people who were rednecks - some self-identified, most vigorously denying it - growing up near Burtonsville, but I will give them the benefit of the doubt.)

"Rednecks"
Gaithersburg, Maryland

At Scot Gas, Darnestown Road,
the high school boys
pumping gas
would snicker at the rednecks.
Every Saturday night there was Earl,
puckering his liquor-smashed face
to announce that he was driving
across the bridge, a bridge spanning
only the whiskey river
that bubbled in his stomach.
Earl's car, one side crumpled like his nose,
would circle closely around the pumps,
turn signal winking relentlessly.

Another pickup truck morning,
and rednecks. Loitering
in our red uniforms, we watched
as a pickup rumbled through.
We expected: "Fill it with no-lead, boy,
and gimme a cash ticket."
We expected the farmer with sideburns
and a pompadour.
We, with new diplomas framed
at home, never expected the woman.
Her face was a purple rubber mask
melting off her head, scars rippling down
where the fire seared her freak face,
leaving her a carnival where high school boys
paid a quarter to look, and look away.

No one took the pump. The farmer saw us standing
in our red uniforms, a regiment of illiterate conscripts.
Still watching us, he leaned across the seat of the truck
and kissed her. He kissed her
all over her happy ruined face, kissed her
as I pumped the gas and scraped the windshield
and measured the oil, he kept kissing her.

those who use downtown's pocket parks are first to get kicked out

Skaters Getting Busted
Skater kids, shown here in front of the Discovery Building, are the sole users of many Downtown spaces but are often chased out of them by security. Check out this photoset of pocket parks.

If you'd like to put up a building in Downtown Silver Spring, chances are you'll be asked to set aside some land for a garden, a park, or a plaza, spaces which will probably look nice but never get used. Pocket parks on the south side of a building will receive no sunlight and thus can get too cold to sit in. Those too far from food become inconvenient as a place to eat lunch. (And you can be too close to food, like the park next to the McDonald's at Colesville and Second, where the air is thick with salt and lard. Mmm, special sauce!) And a few, like Discovery's Sensory Garden on Wayne Avenue - a public amenity! - are even gated, preventing anyone from actually getting in.

These spaces have few users because they're designed to discourage loitering; so few, in fact, that the Planning Board wants to prevent the building of more pocket parks in the future. So Downtown's rotating cast of skater kids show up instead. Occasionally, you'll see them sharing the space with homeless men who for once aren't the ones getting hassled by police. They'd be found outside the Lenox Park apartments at Colesville and East-West Highway, or in the park above the Silver Spring Metro station where I'd wait for the bus.

Last year, the County closed off a block of Ellsworth between Fenton and Cedar for kids to skate each weekend in the place they'd be congregating in anyway. It turned into a little show: complete strangers would gather to watch them do tricks. But they were pushed out by shopkeepers who complained that their customers were scared away.

In August, the floating skate-and-homeless session moved to the plaza outside of the Discovery Building at Georgia and Wayne. For the first time since it was built nearly ten years ago, you could see life in this space as some twenty or so kids gathered there each weekend with skateboards and bikes, doing tricks off the planters and boulders that furnish it as homeless men watched the action from benches between naps and reading the newspaper. But in the month or so it's taken for me to write this post, they've since dispersed, chased away by a cherry-picker dumped in the plaza for some construction project that never seemed to materialize.

Veridian Plaza
We have to find more reasons for people to use new pocket parks, like this one outside the Veridian on East-West Highway. Retail is one option, but so are entertainment or recreational activities.

After watching the jungle gyms of my childhood carted away from Woodside Park at Spring and Georgia, I was heartbroken. But I'm glad to hear that the park's renovations include a new temporary skate spot along First Avenue, to open as early as January. Neighbors who had kids grinding down their front steps last spring will likely be relieved, but I wonder if kids will actually use the space enough to make it permanent.

Skater kids deserve a chunk of the public realm, because they'll vote with their feet (er, wheels) and if not given a space to go they'll make one themselves. There's a potential danger - both for them and for property damage - in kids misusing (or reusing, depending on how you see it) the furniture of the urban environment. And some of these kids don't know to act in public. But if we're going to require developers to build these little useless pocket parks, why don't we turn one or a few of them into legitimate skate spots? You're allowing them to make a public contribution that actually contributes to the public.

LEFT: The Discovery Sensory Garden on Wayne Avenue, a public space, is fenced off.

Hell, why don't we give them all recreational uses? People, especially people who sit down all day, are becoming fat. (In the three months since I got a desk job, I have gained fifteen pounds. It doesn't help that unlike in college, I can actually afford to eat.) It makes sense to turn these little unused spaces into opportunities for physical activities other than smoke breaks: handball courts, basketball hoops, even putting greens. Games that can be played alone or with others and don't require a lot of equipment beyond what you can keep under a desk.

Open space is a hot commodity in Downtown Silver Spring, and will continue to be as more people come here to live or just hang out. It's imperative that we ensure that these spaces are not just attractive but usable as well. Not every park has to have a tree and benches. Creating a variety of pocket parks that can be used for a variety of activities is the way to keep the area vibrant and healthy.

Check out this photoset of pocket parks.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

guest blog: a future for burtonsville

The following is a response to Monday's post "of course burtonsville's settling" from Eric Luedtke, schoolteacher and member of the East County Citizens Advisory Board. He argues that it's time to stop casting blame and find a way to save Burtonsville's dying village center. As I am guilty of some name-calling myself, I appreciate his call to move forward.

Eric Luedtke Gets Interviewed
Luedtke at last year's Burtonsville Day.

Burtonsville needs help. That’s the one thing that pretty much everyone in the east county can agree on. Our central business district consists of row upon row of aging, decrepit strip malls. One of our two biggest shopping centers has something like eight empty storefronts, and is about to lose its anchor store. Much of the office space is empty. Property values are stagnating.

I’m glad Dan weighed in with his opinion about economic development in Burtonsville; it’s a debate that needs to happen and both the media and the county’s political establishment have been paying too little attention. But we need start the discussion from a constructive place, and too often those who have engaged in this conversation over the last few years have simply been re-enacting past debates and trying to find ways to place blame. It’s the NIMBY’s. It’s the developers. We could have done better. We could have had a real CBD, a walkable community, if only those guys over there hadn’t screwed everything up.

We need to start from where we agree, and where we agree is that Burtonsville needs help. Casting blame accomplishes nothing, especially since it prevents the community from presenting the sort of united voice that we’re going to need if we want to revive Burtonsville. Here are some of my thoughts on what we should be working on, that I think we might be able to share regardless of where we lie on the debate (any-growth vs. smart growth or anti-growth vs. pro-growth depending on one’s point of view) :

1. One Vocal Councilmember is Not Enough: Nancy Navarro, like both of the Praisners before her, is proving to be vocal in her advocacy for the Burtonsville area. But if the last few years have shown us anything, it’s that one voice is not enough. We need the politicians to fight for us, and because politicians are what they are, the only way they’ll do that is if we make them. People downcounty do that very effectively, which is why so many of our elected leaders seem to think the county starts at the DC line and ends at Randolph Road.

The Burtonsville community needs to be more vocal, and unfortunately we don’t have an institution to do that. No city council like Rockville. No chamber of commerce like Germantown. No civic umbrella like GOCA in Olney. The closest thing we have, the East County Citizens Advisory Board, is hamstrung by county rules. Unless and until we have a real organizational advocate that can make more politicians listen, even those who live here will have no real reason not to ignore us.

2. It’s Time to Reopen the Master Plan: The Fairland Master Plan is simply not meeting the needs of the community. Master Plans are meant to give an overall vision to the development of a community. Our current master plan, regardless of how one felt about it in 1997, has been so diluted with ZTAs and special exceptions, so undercut by economic realities, that there is little left of any cohesive vision.

The only thing preventing this is the budget reality that planning takes money, and the powers that be have a specific order to go in. I find that, frankly, a little ridiculous. I have a friend who’s an ER nurse. When two patients come in, one with a heart attack, one with a broken thumb, she isn’t rushing to the side of the guy with a broken thumb. For planners to ignore the need for a Fairland rewrite while working on plans for parts of the county which are already economically successful is ridiculous.

3. We Need to Start From Scratch: And I mean from scratch. Start from a blank slate, and a single question: What do we want Burtonsville to look like in twenty years? That allows us to look at all sorts of options. Slowing traffic through the CBD. Redeveloping the entire shopping center that the Giant is leaving, since its economic viability is questionable anyway. Working out a deal with the property owners west of Seibel’s to try to get something better out of that stretch of road than strip malls. History is important – and I’m a history teacher so you know I really believe that. But if we let the debate about our future to continue being dominated by debates long past, we will accomplish nothing.

4. It’s Time to Stop Attacking Each Other: There’s nothing to be gained from calling each other names in the paper. It might help the Gazette’s circulation some, but it does absolutely nothing for our community. No matter how hard it may be sometimes, the key to effectively solving our problems is this: assume that the person on the other side of the table is acting in good faith.

Eric Luedtke

If you've got something to say about East County, say it here! Leave a comment or send your thoughts to justupthepike at gmail dot com.

what's up the pike: early halloween

The Skater Mob, Ellsworth Drive
Not quite zombies, but close.

- It's Zombie Walk season again, which means the streets of Montgomery County's faux-downtowns will once again flow like rivers with the blood of the undead. This Saturday, of course, is the Silver Spring Zombie Walk, hosted by Thayer Avenue and Silver Spring, Singular. They're asking you to meet at the Quarry House, Georgia Avenue at Bonifant Street, at 7:30pm before staggering up Ellsworth Drive.

- And over on The Other Pike, Cindy from Rockville Central is holding a Zombie Walk of their own. That'll be next Friday, October 30. They're meeting 7:30pm (is this the half-hour of the undead?) outside the Apollo Bar at 12 N. Washington Street before stalking through Rockville Town Square.

- If that's not enough for you, the Rocky Horror Show - a theatrical version of the 1976 cult-film Rocky Horror Picture Show has its second local run this month with the Kensington Arts Theatre. There'll be performances Friday and Saturday both this week and next (which, of course, includes Halloween) and continuing well into November at the Kensington Town Hall, 3710 Mitchell Street. Check out KAT's website for more info.

- The East County Regional Services Center is hosting a collection drive for victims of domestic violence. Bring toiletries, books, or toys to the center at Briggs Chaney and Robey roads anytime through this Friday. They'll be compiled into kits for visitors to the Betty Ann Krahnke Center in Rockville, serving families affected by domestic violence. For more info, call 240/777-8400.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

this blog was brought to you by . . .

JUTP still doesn't have a policy on advertising, despite having been approached by a few blog-savvy marketers. I have a friend in New York who wants to know how I'll "monetize" this venture, but it won't happen so long as I have to report any income earned outside work to the county's Ethics Commission. So in the interest of charity (and cleaning out my inbox), here are some more announcements that I was not compensated for in any way, shape or form:

Photo by flickr user Yukari*.

- The animal welfare website PetFinder.com hosts its third-annual Discovery Adoptable Pet Event next Tuesday. It's your chance to see "cute, adoptable pets, including dogs and (for the first time) cats" (emphasis theirs) from local animal shelters. If free puppies aren't enough to get you in the door, there's also free food. The event's from 4 to 6pm next Tuesday, October 27 at One Discovery Place, located at Wayne and Georgia.

- Geeta, who lives on U Street (hey, it's only 65 blocks from Downtown Silver Spring), asked us to mention her latest project: 50 Dates, an "experiment to find love within six degrees of separation." Geeta's asked her friends to find her fifty straight and single men to have a date with before June 2010, and she's started a blog to document her progress.

- The Bach Sinfonia continues to break in Montgomery College's new Silver Spring/Takoma Park Performing Arts Center with the venue's inaugural classical performance. Sinfonia performs music from the eighteenth century using instruments and techniques from that period. Check out their latest concert, this Saturday at 8pm, is an exploration of the Baroque concerto, including works by Vivaldi, Handel, and composers that anyone besides music majors wouldn't know.

daily snapshot: tree museum

Tree Preservation Zone


"Took all the trees, put 'em in a tree museum/
And charged the people a dollar and a half just to see 'em."


Joni Mitchell/Counting Crows (for the younger set), "Big Yellow Taxi"

This is on Wayne Avenue at Dixon, near the bus queues for the Silver Spring Metro.

Monday, October 19, 2009

of course burtonsville's settling (so what are we gonna do about it?)

Signs Along Route 198 (There Are So Many)
"Is Burtonsville settling?" asks Eric Luedtke, East County Citizens Advisory Board member. He was discussing the controversial ezStorage project that I can't say much about (it's currently going through the County Council), but I can confidently say yes: Burtonsville's been settling for the status quo, pushing away investment while complaining we don't get nice things here.

I live here and I don't go to Burtonsville anymore because there's even less here than there was when I left for college in 2005. But now I can head up to Howard County - and soon, Prince George's County - to enjoy the high-end shopping and well-paying jobs people here say they've been demanding since before I was even born. While our community leaders bicker about density and poor people, we're left with empty storefronts, vacant office buildings, and a line of cars heading north on Route 29.

Think the Burtonsville village center looks shabby? Tell that to folks who demanded "minimal changes" to the run-down Route 198 strip at a community charrette last summer. Burtonsville's shopkeepers said sidewalks in the village center weren't necessary and that a public green would "attract undesirables."

Meanwhile, local shops already ravaged by the Burtonsville Bypass lost the Amish Market, the only big draw it had. Civic activists complained that what would take its place was "massive" and "not particularly attractive." What we're getting instead is a strip mall called Burtonsville Town Square that won't even have a square and has already cannibalized the shopping center across the street.

Bethesda Lane Bad Panorama
Bethesda isn't just a bunch of expensive houses - it's a community that attracts and embraces economic investment rather than turning everyone away.

Meanwhile, our homeowners' associations fight a status quo war of their own, saying that building affordable housing will create open-air drug markets. They've lobbied to keep public buses from serving their subdivisions and said they don't want poor people walking through them, either.

And yet all this non-progress hasn't made traffic any better. Our neighbors who advised County officials on the 1997 Fairland Master Plan declared that transit-oriented development was "unworkable" here. Nevermind the success of TOD in places like Downtown Silver Spring or Rockville Town Square. In an already built-up area, no transit means no development, which means no amenities, which means more traffic as we drive to get the things we need.

"Burtonsville has had a chance to get some really nice stuff," fellow board member Tom Aylward said to Luedtke, "but it's been killed by the master plan and the ardent supporters of the master plan." East County's civic establishment has spent decades complaining that we're a "dumping ground" for poor people. They assume that if we just build enough expensive single-family houses we'll turn into Bethesda. But Bethesda has sidewalks, a clean, attractive downtown, and quite a few apartments as well, not to mention excellent bus and Metro service. I think we're missing something.

We should celebrate Burtonsville and try to hold on to the things we love. But as our NIMBY games slowly kill the business district, will we have anything left to save?

what's up the pike: desert, not dessert

Cuba de Ayer
- Post food critic Tom Sietsema's 2009 Fall Dining Guide, includes three local restaurants: Ruan Thai in Wheaton; Cuba de Ayer in Burtonsville; and Kabob n Karahi in Cloverly (the review incorrectly places it across from White Oak Middle School). Apparently the whole "food desert" thing must be worse than we thought, because Sietsema doesn't list any eateries in Prince George's or outside of Northwest D.C. He can put both all three locations of Jaleo on the list, but can't find a meal to his liking in Takoma-Langley or the much-hyped H Street corridor? What gives?

- Next weekend, celebrate the Silver Spring Library while catching a glimpse at the bibliotheque's future. The fourth annual Silver Spring Library BookFest returns next Saturday with a used-book sale, baked goods (not inside, I assume) and a petting zoo. At noon, the "latest design" for the new library planned at Wayne Avenue and Fenton Street will be unveiled. The festival runs from 10am to 3pm in the library, 8901 Colesville Road at Spring Street.

- Six dollars to drive the InterCounty Connector sounds like highway robbery to some and totally justified to others. Both sides get to make their case to state transportation officials at a series of open houses and public hearings. This week, there are open houses presenting info on the proposed tolling plan tonight at High Point High in Calverton and on Wednesday at Kennedy High in Glenmont. Next Wednesday, October 28 and Thursday, October 29, there will be public hearings at High Point and Shady Grove Middle School in Gaithersburg, respectively. All four events run from 6 to 9pm.

- The Good Eatin' in Wheaton blog laments that Arlington-based burger chain Five Guys doesn't have a location in Wheaton or, for that matter, anywhere in below-the-Beltway Silver Spring. If you'd like to bring their never-frozen patties to downtowns Silver Spring or Wheaton, keep in mind the chain's "basic site requirements" ask for at least 2,000 square feet of space, a building with "unique or progressive architectural character," and at least "35 dedicated parking spaces." Thirty-five dedicated spaces sounds like a bit much for a burger joint, and it's probably why their current East County locations are in strip malls in Aspen Hill and Calverton (on Tech Road).

Friday, October 16, 2009

what's up the pike: so fresh and so clean (updated)

Jim Dandy, Bonifant Street (cropped)
- From the listservs: Samuel Myers, better known as Bonifant Street dry-cleaner Jim Dandy, will receive the 2009 Neal Potter Path of Achievement Award this year. Named for the former County Executive, the prize honors Montgomery County residents over 60 who have contributed to their community. Ninety-four years old, Myers has owned the cleaners since 1972 but will have to leave soon as his and several other businesses along Bonifant are cleared to make way for a new apartment building. He'll be recognized in a ceremony at the Music Center at Strathmore on November 5 at 4pm.

- Looks like developer Patriot Realty has returned to their "drab grey tower" playbook for their plans to redo the Wheaton Safeway. DCmud has a street view of the proposal (at right), which would put 500 apartments atop a new grocery store at Georgia Avenue and Reedie Drive in a building designed by Baltimore firm Hord Coplan Macht (who also did the stalled Glenmont MetroCentre project) and often compared to D.C.'s CityVista, of the renowned "pale yellow" school of design. Patriot is also responsible for dun-colored residential buildings like the Portico, the Crescent and 8045 Newell in Downtown Silver Spring.

- It's supposed to be cold and wet this weekend, but don't let that stop you from attending tomorrow's Intergenerational International Festival (don't know why they'd abbreviate that) from 11am to 6pm in Downtown Silver Spring UPDATE: It's been cancelled. According to the flyer, the event will have "international foods", an "intergenerational international cooking contest", and "free admission." Looks like all of that's no match for the oncoming monsoon season. So much for being dry. What events on Ellsworth Drive don't have free admission? Have they started charging kids to hang outside the Majestic now?

- Before and after that event, celebrate the 75th anniversary of Blair High School with a Homecoming Parade leaving from Wayne and Fenton at 9am, and a block party on Ellsworth in the evening from 6 to 8pm.

- A Takoma Park parent says Montgomery County Public Schools aren't doing enough for gifted students of color. In an interview with the Voice, former PTA President Denise Jones, who is black, talks about her daughter placed in "accelerated" programs that weren't challenging enough and hassled by classmates for being smart. Eventually, she transferred to a private school. As a minority who managed to escape from a gifted-and-talented program, I could definitely sympathize with her story.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

local google streetview photos updated!

Google StreetView has been available in some form throughout East County for some while now, allowing people mostly below-the-Beltway to explore their neighborhoods without even looking at a window. The photos - taken by a rotating camera atop a truck - were recently updated for the D.C. area, offering a snapshot of life in Silver Spring just a few months ago, when it was still warm and humid and the Civic Building was even less completed.

Not surprisingly, much of the local StreetView action takes place on Ellsworth, where those of all ages can come and be photographed against their will.

streetview (1)

"What are y'all looking at?" The girl asked her friends, stomping her foot. "Seriously? Is there something on my face? Like, tell me!"

streetview (3)

All three of them discovered the abandoned DSW bag at once and froze. Who would get to take it home? Each thought. And, more importantly, what would it take to make the other two look the other way?

streetview (2)
"Jesus, honey, do you have to walk so fast? Red Lobster isn't even gonna close for eight hours."

Meanwhile, elsewhere in the CBD, a newly arrived tourist discovers his trip may have been in vain.

streetview

"Yeah, I just got off the Greyhound. So where's this giant Astroturf lawn supposed to be?"

streetview (4)


Up The Pike, you can see all of East County has fallen into an abyss of white light and shadow, the depths of which were previously thought to be impenetrable by truck-mounted cameras. Google, once again making the impossible possible.

guest blog: proposed changes to Q2 bus hurt downcounty riders

Waiting For A Bus, Wayne at Dixon
On Tuesday, WMATA held a public hearing to discuss changes to the Metrobus Q2 line between Silver Spring and Shady Grove. Kathy Jentz, East Silver Spring resident and frequent Q2 customer, testified at the meeting. In this guest blog, she argues that the reconfigured line will reduce service in the Downcounty, where ridership is the highest.

Tuesday night was a hearing at First Baptist Church in Wheaton to explain how WMATA is "breaking" the Q2 into two segments starting late this December and to get the public's feedback. "Breaking" being the operative word, as the proposed "improvements" will do nothing to alleviate the current line problems but could do much to worsen it. Unfortunately, only two bus riders including myself testified at the hearing. We were outnumbered ten-to-one by WMATA staff and other area transit employees. If you would like to comment (and I very much urge you to do so), you may send an email by 5pm Friday, October 16 to WMATA's public outreach contact.

The Q2 currently runs twelve miles from Shady Grove to Silver Spring, passing through Wheaton and Rockville along Georgia Avenue, Veirs Mill Road, and Rockville Pike. It carries 10,200 riders a day and is one of the most heavily used bus lines in the region. The segment between Silver Spring to Wheaton carries over 50% of those Q2 riders. In the new proposal, there will be a Q2A bus that runs from Shady Grove to Wheaton and a Q2B bus from Rockville to Silver Spring, allowing the Veirs Mill section between Wheaton and Rockville to be served most frequently.

One of the problems many Q2 riders pointed out at previous meetings was the detour into the Rockville campus of Montgomery College, which was often totally unnecessary when the campus is closed. That remains as part of the QA route with a minor adjustment to switch campus entrances that will save mere seconds off the bus route. They are also looking into saving time at Shady Grove, Rockville, and Wheaton metro stations by reconfiguring how the buses enter and exit them.

I'd suggest they more clearly mark which buses are going in which direction as most delays I experience are the bus drivers repeatedly telling illiterate riders "Shady Grove" or "Silver Spring" as they block others from boarding. I can only imagine how this will play out on the overlapping Q2A/Q2B lines along Veirs Mill with the poor driver having to explain to folks not only the destination but if they are not going all the way as well.

MetroExtra Bus Headed Towards Silver Spring
WMATA officials say express service along the Q2 route, like this MetroExtra bus on Georgia Avenue in the District, has been postponed indefinitely.

A Q9 Express version of the Q2 line was requested by many of the attendees at past Q2 meetings as the logical solution to the current bus-bunching and schedule problems. I was informed by WMATA & Ride-On staff after the meeting that the Express line "just missed funding" in the current budget by a tiny margain and has been shelved for now. Just as well, as it only went from Shady Grove to Wheaton, inexplicably leaving off the most traveled section of the Q2 line from the Wheaton to Silver Spring stations. When I asked why the Express was not including this segment, I was given no explanation or reason.

One official later said that "we hoped this would steer more folks to take the Red line" for that portion. He was not joking. So those of us who want to get upcounty from downcounty are not only forced to transfer between multiple buses, but also between Metro and back and to also then to pay the 3-5x price increase for using rail for a portion of our travels.

No mention at all was made of the Y line buses that run north-south on Georgia Avenue and whether they will be increased to absorb this excess passenger load shifted to them by the planned decrease in Q2 service from Silver Spring to Wheaton. When I brought this up in my testimony the officials present looked surprised. The fact is when a Y bus runs late (which is often), the Q2 takes on all those extra passengers and then the bottleneck shifts to the Q2. This is the domino effect that is choking both bus lines. A Georgia Avenue express bus on the Y line, say from Silver Spring to Glenmont, would greatly relieve that pressure on both lines now and would be the ideal solution to most of all of the Q2 bus bunching as well as the Y bus schedule problems.

Kathy Jentz is editor and publisher of Washington Gardener magazine and can be reached at WGardenermag at aol dot com. If you've got something to say about East County, say it here! Send any contributions to justupthepike at gmail dot com.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

daily snapshot: hold on to the feeling

Don't Stop Believing (Paint Branch HS)

This is spray-painted on all the stop signs around the parking lot of Paint Branch High School in Burtonsville. I don't know what it refers to, but I'm just going to say it was an homage to the Journey song. It's so corny, but still so inspiring. ("Eye of the Tiger" is also helpful, but less adaptable to a street sign.)

what's up the pike: all about food

New Restaurant on Ramsey Avenue

- Work on 8407, chef Pedro Matamoros' new restaurant at 8407 Ramsey Avenue, formerly the Jamaican restaurant Yellow House (and before that, a tiki bar) is well underway. That is, at least from the looks of the sexy floor-to-ceiling-think-I-saw-those-in-Bethesda windows. In July, Matamoros left Latin restaurant Nicaro, on Georgia Avenue, causing them to close for a month before finding a new head cook. To find out when 8407 finally opens, check out their blog and Twitter feed.

- College Perk, the bar/coffeehouse/hipster hangout on Route 1 that closed after an electrical fire (but not before being evicted) last summer, has designs on reopening as a fine dining establishment. The Perk's website says they'd like to take over the former 94th Aero Squadron restaurant's space on Paint Branch Parkway near the College Park Metro, keeping that "same bohemian style" in a considerably larger venue with a "banquet hall" and "dinner theatre." They've brought "three notable chefs" to make food for the venture.

Keep in mind, of course, they're still in a bitter legal battle over their original location, so this half-baked idea will probably stay in the oven for a while longer. [Thanks to Rethink College Park for the heads-up.]

- The Post reviews the General Store at Forest Glen (located at Forest Glen and Seminary roads), still struggling to get on its feet nearly a year after opening. That doesn't change the fact that their onion rings are the most ridiculous and amazing thing you've ever tasted, so don't waste any time in going over there and giving them a try.

- It's supposed to be cold and wet this weekend, but don't let that stop you from attending Saturday's Intergenerational International Festival (don't know why they'd abbreviate that) from 11am to 6pm in Downtown Silver Spring. According to the flyer, the event will have "international foods", an "intergenerational international cooking contest", and "free admission." What events on Ellsworth Drive don't have free admission? Have they started charging kids to hang outside the Majestic now?

- Before and after that event, celebrate the 75th anniversary of Blair High School with a Homecoming Parade leaving from Wayne and Fenton at 9am, and a block party on Ellsworth in the evening from 6 to 8pm.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

daily snapshot(s): barbed wire

Barbed Wire And Revitalization

Barbed wire and chain-link fences surround the future site of Studio Plaza, a mixed-use development in the block bounded by Georgia, Thayer, Fenton and Silver Spring. Most of the site is currently Public Parking Lot 3, but it also displaced several businesses along Thayer Avenue, including Roadhouse Oldies, which moved a couple of blocks away.

Chain Link Fence, Studio Plaza Site

dc's cityvista offers precedent for revitalizing wheaton

CityVista DC, 5th and K NW
At fourteen stories, a planned mixed-use complex based on D.C.'s CityVista would dwarf anything else in Downtown Wheaton. But is that necessarily a bad thing?

Last month, developers unveiled rough plans to redevelop the Safeway at Georgia and Reedie across from the Wheaton Metro, building five hundred apartments in a fourteen-story building atop a new supermarket. Understandably, local residents have had a lot of concerns about the project. The Good Eatin' in Wheaton blog notes that there isn't another building nearly as tall in the business district.

People have the right to be skeptical about any new development in Wheaton after twenty years of talk, an art-house theatre that shut down after two months, and fears that it'll become "another Silver Spring." To some, the number of proposed apartments seems too high. But as David Alpert of GGW pointed out on the Kojo Nnamdi Show yesterday, businesses need a critical mass of people to survive. Downtown Wheaton doesn't have the reputation or accessibility to rely on car traffic like it did in the 1950's. There have to be more people in the neighborhood who can walk to local shops.

The developer's precedent for the Georgia and Reedie proposal can be found nine Metro stops away at CityVista, a new development in Gallery Place Chinatown Mount Vernon Triangle? at 5th and K streets Northwest. Designed by Torti Gallas and Partners, responsible for dozens of multi-family communities throughout the region and nationally, the project includes three apartment and condo towers, two of which sit atop a base of retail shops and a Safeway.

Taylor Gourmet
Generous setbacks from K Street create space for sidewalk dining areas and a lot of landscaping. At the corner, the building cuts away to form a large courtyard, reducing its visual impact on the surroundings (currently a mix of parking lots and considerably shorter buildings). While the sidewalks last weekend were mobbed due to an event before the National Equality March, it felt less crowded than Ellsworth Drive on a Friday night.

Retail space in new apartment towers is hard to fill, and often goes to uses that don't create foot traffic. Real estate firm Edens & Avant (who also own the Burtonsville Crossing shopping center) have made CityVista a destination with local businesses like the popular restaurant/bar Busboys and Poets, 5th Street Hardware (a locally-owned franchise of Ace Hardware), and Taylor Gourmet, perhaps the only deli that's been lauded both for its food and its architecture.

Safeway, 5th and K
And, of course, there's a grocery store as well. The shopping experience at what District residents call the "Sexy Safeway" goes above and beyond what you get in the 1960's-era market at Georgia and Reedie now, from the faux-hardwood floors to the well-stocked produce section. There's even free parking for ninety minutes. It's in an underground garage, but I assume that anyone who patronizes the Safeway on Thayer Avenue would already be used to it.

You and I may not be able to put down $400k on a one-bedroom condominium here. But we can pretend like we can while patronizing businesses unique to D.C. The size may not seem like an obvious fit for Wheaton, but CityVista's celebration of local retailers sounds pretty appropriate for its business district.

Check out this photoset of CityVista in the District.