Monday, August 2, 2010

what's up the pike: condo canyon

Sculpture Outside Argent Condos
- Built as high-end condos before the economic downturn, the Argent at East-West Highway and Blair Mill Road (pictured above) will be converted to rentals for low-income families, says UrbanTurf. Commenters on that blog are grousing about the switch, but with neighbors including three high-end apartments and several other new condos that have opened in the past five years, the area could use some more reasonably-priced housing options.

- Speaking of UrbanTurf and condos: they've got a lovely profile of downtown Silver Spring, with quotes from some of your favorite local community people. I take issue with real estate agent Debbie Lee insisting that "Everybody hates that stupid mall" called City Place, as there's certainly a large - if not well-heeled - clientele who shops there. That said, I'm looking forward to plans to turn the mall around.


- Jerry McCoy stays in the Courtyard Marriott on Fenton Street and tries to imagine himself as a tourist to Silver Spring.

- Speaking of which: WikiTravel, the travel guide "anyone can edit," has its own page on Silver Spring. "The 'center' is nice and full of happy people, but also rather artificial and full of chains," it says. You know, the Lonely Planet travel writers got paid to make the exact same conclusion.

- A teacher at Kemp Mill Elementary School was fired for allegedly touching a child, but he - and the child's parents - say it's the principal who deserve sexual harassment charges.

- Express Night Out is taking nominees for their Best of 2010 survey, which looks for everything from the best local bar to the best local street musician. We're hoping you'll consider JUTP for "Best (Non-Food) Blogger," though, of course, I'll be on my way out soon.


- Come to a special going-away happy hour Thursday from 6 to 8pm at Jackie's Sidebar, 8081 Georgia Avenue.


Patrick said...

Does anyone know how they are defining low-income? This has the potential to be a very bad idea if it's on the low end. Concentrating poverty is always a bad idea.

It makes much more sense to put lower-income people in with higher-income people then to segregate lower-income people together. Say, for instance, requiring apartment buildings to have a certain amount of units for low-income individuals. This is much more likely to raise these people up. If you stick a bunch of low-income people together you have the possibility of everyone bringing each other down.

Other communities and areas of the country have already learned this the hard way. It only takes one Cabrini-Green to sink an entire area (I drove through that area every day when I lived in Chicago). You may want to believe that building low-income housing is some higher nobility, but it is not. It's often a means to ghettoize people.

I haven't been able to find how exactly low-income is being defined here, but I'm a bit shocked that an entire building in Silver Spring is being made low-income. No smart government would do this.

Dan Reed said...


Like you said, there are lots of apartment buildings in the county with some units sent aside for low-income households. I agree that it's a good way to go. In fact, the Silverton - right across the street from the Argent - does just that.

There are also handful of entirely-subsidized apartment buildings in the county. Around the corner from the Argent is Gramax Tower, which has set income limits for people looking to rent there. For an individual, it's about $43,000 a year - not a high salary, but not what you'd call "poor." For a family of four, it's about $61,000 a year, which is just below the average household income in Silver Spring. (I believe it was about $64,000 in 2000.)

A building like this is a long, long way from a project. The Argent has just 96 units, though some 15,000 people lived in Cabrini-Green.

Patrick said...

The Argent is a small building, which makes this decision a little better. I'm still surprised that the politicians in Montgomery County think this is a good idea. And, as you said, it's close to another low-income only building.

Silver Spring has a lot of potential, but I keep seeing boneheaded decisions by politicians who are ignorant of the realities on the ground. The buildings are too tall and the roads are too wide. There are not nearly enough mixed-use buildings. There are far too many parking garages and surface lots.

And now the county thinks its a good idea to create another entirely low-income building. $43,000 isn't poor, especially for much of the country, but it even eliminates grade-school teachers from being able to rent in that place. Or police officers. It's virtually impossible to have an education and not make above $43,000 in the DC area (I work at an NGO and virtually everyone here makes above that).

I am contemplating buying a place in the East-West Highway Corridor, but this decision gives me pause. I like Silver Spring a lot, but I could just wait a few years and buy a place in a city that isn't controlled by a government of suburbanites who are repeating many of the mistakes that cities have long since done.

I don't have a problem with low-income people (or high-income people, of which I am not), but I am not ignorant of what can happen when a building (or buildings in this case) are entirely low-income.

one-star said...

Because this worked so so well for Wheaton---the county's low income dumping ground.

As it stands, there will be no revitalization there because all the apartments are owned/administered by either HOC, MHP, or full of vouchers (Archstone). The county loves it because they can house the poor away from those sensitive liberals in Bethesda, the developers love it because HOC vouchers pay way above market, and as an added bonus, given the general lack of documentation of the Wheaton poor they are much less likely to complain or ask for county services.

Terry in Silver Spring said...

Has anyone bought a condo at Argent? I've seen ads for the place around. What happens to the people who bought in early in a situation like this?

Patrick said...

I should note that the real concern for this area will continue to be the two motels on 13th, where a prostitution ring was broken up in 2008 (with the related drug and gang activity). Does anyone know how that situation is going? It would be difficult for any residents in the area to top what was going on there for so many years.

Silver Spring: Then and Again said...


I wanted to stop by Jackie's this Thursday to wish you good luck but have to work our SSHS table at the SS Civic Building. Have a great experience in Philly!