Friday, April 30, 2010

walking the heritage trail

Silver Spring Heritage Trail Signs (1)
Last weekend, a bevy of elected officials and representatives from the Silver Spring Historical Society dedicated the Heritage Trail, a series of signs marking historic landmarks throughout Downtown Silver Spring.

The first six signs have been placed along Georgia Avenue, noting places like the original location of Gifford's Ice Cream which opened in 1938 at Georgia and Sligo; the former Masonic Temple at Georgia and Wayne; and the Cissel-Lee Building at Georgia and Ripley, where the "Mattress Discounters" jingle was first recorded forty years ago.

ALC Building, Georgia at Ripley
The Cissel-Lee Building, which dates to the 1920's, is undergoing a massive renovation.

Future signs will commemorate the preserved fa├žade of the Canada Dry factory on East-West Highway and the National Institute of Dyers and Cleaners at Georgia and Burlington, where dry cleaning was invented.

Here's a map of current and future signs on the Silver Spring Heritage Trail, which you'll also find posted on signs throughout Downtown.

heritage trail map

what's up the pike: dust storm

Dust Storm
- If you enjoyed Kensington Arts Theatre's production of Rent last February (which JUTP positively reviewed), you'll want to check out their take on the musical Violet, a story about race and identity in 1960's-era North Carolina. The show opens tonight at 8pm and runs through Saturday, May 22 in the auditorium of the Kensington Town Hall, located at 3710 Mitchell Street in (duh) Kensington. For more information, and to buy tickets (you'll get a discount if you can prove you live in the town of Kensington), check out their website.

- Capital City Cheesecake finally opens tomorrow at 7071 Carroll Avenue in Old Town Takoma. The new cafe will boast couches for "laptop squatters" and a downstairs space that'll hold cooking classes, not to mention cheesecake.

- And don't forget to check out this week's Fenton Street Market, held in the parking lot at Fenton Street and Silver Spring Avenue. Market creator Hannah McCann sent us this preview of the goings-on, which will include a free workshop on "greening your home" and free chocolate bars as well.

And in other news:

- Reemberto Rodriguez, director of the Silver Spring Regional Services Center, lists his favorite local blogs on his blog, Silver Spring Speaks.

- And Sara at Wheaton Calling offers her take on the proposal to bring Costco to Wheaton Plaza.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

at fenton street market this weekend

Bikes For Sale (I Rode The One In The Middle And It Was Sweet)

Of course, Saturday is the weekly Fenton Street Market, held on the parking lot at Fenton Street and Silver Spring Avenue. I'm looking forward to checking out - though I'm sure the lovely fixed-speed cruiser bike I admired last fall (it's in the middle there) is long gone. (I had a brief and scary test ride with that bike through East Silver Spring. Perhaps I'm just not "hip" enough for any bike that you have to pedal backwards to stop.)

Anyway, market founder Hannah McCann sent us this preview of Saturday's events:

From 10am to 3pm, there's a workshop on "Greening Your Home." Speakers include Dave Taghipour of the All Eco Center, a new store in Wheaton, architects Greg Kearley of Inscape Studio and Alan Abrams of Abrams Design-Build, both local purveyors of green design, and Carlo La Porta, owner of solar energy company Capital Sun Group.

Meanwhile, Red Persimmon Imports is giving away free Divine Chocolate candy bars in honor of World Fair Trade Day. The company employs West African cocoa farmers via fair-trade practices. That's from 9am to 3pm.

As always, the market runs from 9am to 3pm and free parking is available (for now) in any of the public parking lots along Fenton. I'll see you there!

inside the new silver spring civic building

Earlier this month, I had the opportunity (via work) to take a hard-hat tour of the new Silver Spring Civic Building, which will finally open this July after years of planning an anticipation.

Civic Building Porch
The Civic Building is located at Ellsworth Drive and Fenton Street in the heart of Downtown Silver Spring. According to the Gazette, the 42,000-square-foot, $22 million facility will contain an art gallery, an 800-person auditorium with a dance floor, classrooms and meeting rooms available for community use, and offices. It was designed by Boston-based firm Machado and Silvetti, who in a 2007 community meeting referred to the complex as "the frame, the carpet, for where things are going to happen" in Silver Spring.

Construction Workers In Scaffolding (1)

Outside, the future Veterans' Plaza is still a construction site - and for those dining nearby, a free show. Work continues on a new ice rink, complete with a canopy that'll glow in the evenings. In the warmer months, the rink will be used as an amphitheatre for concerts and other performances.

Civic Building Lobby
Inside, bright colors dominate the building's lobby and adjacent auditorium, along with the stained wood that wraps around the building inside and out.

Sad Tape Face
The Civic Building is oriented to be on axis with Ellsworth Drive, meaning that you'll be able to stand at the front door and look straight into the Discovery Building a block away.

We weren't really allowed inside the courtyard, though you can see that trees are planted and pipes laid for a special, water-saving irrigation system. When completed, this space will serve as a space for informal gathering.

Second Floor Landing
From the front desk, visitors will ascend a flight of stairs to the second floor, where classrooms and government offices are located.

Main Hallway (Upstairs)
Upstairs, this hallway will lead to a suite of offices originally set aside for the Silver Spring Regional Services Center, though other county agencies will now have space there as well.

Penguin Windows (1)
Many of the building's windows - specifically, those between the first and second floors in any double-height spaces like the hallway above - are frosted with little penguins, the unofficial mascot of Silver Spring.

Corner Windows (1)
A second-floor classroom enjoys panoramic views of Downtown Silver Spring, courtesy of those nifty wraparound windows I've been ogling over the past year.

Basement Entrance
Two floors down, the entire basement has been given over to Round House Theatre in return for $1 a year in rent, as part of an agreement made several years ago. There will be a practice studio designed to mimic the stage at the actual theatre, located a block away on Colesville Road, ten individual offices, and a large area for cubicles. The suite even has its own private entrance, located on Veterans Place, a new street behind the Civic Building.

Regional Services Center director Reemberto Rodriguez (pictured above) has been leading a community-wide discussion about the use of public space in the community, both at IMPACT Silver Spring's yearly networking event and on his blog, Silver Spring Speaks. While the Civic Building adds much-needed meeting space and replaces the popular "Turf", which was removed two years ago, it's unclear how much space will be available for the community when the complex is finished.

Check out this slideshow of the Civic Building's progress over the past year, including photos of my tour.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

what's up the pike: today's number is 287

- From the listservs: the Chelsea School, a small private institution on Pershing Drive near Downtown Silver Spring, may have shelved plans to build a library on their campus designed by starchitect Daniel Libeskind due to a lack of funding. The school's plans to build 75 condos on the land instead came up at a recent meeting of the neighboring Seven Oaks-Evanswood Citizens' Association. The school's website for the library project has a picture of Libeskind but no mention or images of the library.

Where 'U' Belong

- Remember this? Double points if you can tell me where you'll find this 2004-vintage "Silver SprUng" sign. (It's in a pretty prominent place, so don't make fun of me if it's obvious to you.)

- Good Eatin' in Wheaton finishes what I started and explores Peruvian food in Wheaton, to many the epicenter of the pollo a la brasa phenomenon. Since he can write better about food than me, I might just outsource the rest of our Great Peruvian Taste Test to him.

- Eric Luedtke - Burtonsville resident, middle-school teacher, member of the East County Citizens Advisory Board - is running for state delegate in District 14, says Maryland Politics Watch. With two seats open, the district - which includes everything from Burtonsville to Damascus - could be one of the year's most interesting races, MPW's Adam says. Check out Eric's guest blog from last fall on the need to revitalize the Burtonsville village center.

- When JUTP attempted to post flyers in local stores two summers ago, Dawn Spencer - owner of gift shop Patches in Colesville at New Hampshire Avenue and Randolph Road - was one of the few who offered me a patch of her window, despite not being totally clear what a "blog" was. Like many local retailers, she's losing business, but friends and customers threw a fundraiser last weekend to keep the shop open, says the WaPo's John Kelly.

(He and I had the same journalism teacher, 25 years apart; I remember being assigned to read his high school columns, which were - IMO - much funnier than anything he's produced since. Today's title is a reference to one of them, which of course makes no sense to you unless you read the Rockville High School paper in 1981.)

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

the velveteen giraffe: a happy ending?

Burned Giraffe
Last August, a pair of townhouses on Featherwood Street in Fairland caught fire, injuring three firefighters. It also left two families homeless. Two weeks after the fire, their belongings still sat in the yard, including a three-foot-tall toy giraffe.

Eight months later, however, this story finally has a happy ending. Stopping by Featherwood Street last weekend, I noticed both houses had been completely renovated. They now appear as if nothing had happened. I'm glad that their owners can go home again.

I don't see the giraffe, though.

Renovated Houses On Featherwood Street

putting humans in the human rights art festival

Last weekend was the first-annual Amnesty International Human Rights Art Festival, taking place at some forty venues around Downtown Silver Spring. I was pretty convinced that it was going to be a "big effing deal"; on Friday, I puzzled over the nine-page schedule found on the festival's website, unsure how to plan my visit.

Of course, when I got downtown the following day I realized I left it at home, and I was left to wander the streets looking for signs of activity, of which there were little. Yes, it was raining on Saturday. Yes, almost all the festival events were indoors. But there was so little information about what was going on once you were in Downtown Silver Spring that anyone who didn't know where to look couldn't find anything.

Compare this to other local, indoor art festivals. Art-O-Matic in D.C. is held inside a single, easy-to-find building. Baltimore's Artscape takes place across several indoor venues, but they're connected by an outdoor street fair. These set-ups have the benefit of extensive advertising, but they also create a physical presence in the communities they're located in.

Human Rights Art Festival (3)
The festival did include musical performances on Ellsworth Drive, including cover band the Melonheads (pictured). A few steps away, there are painters working on canvases somewhat oblivious to what's going on. Volunteers were asking people to sign petitions, and there were tables for Amnesty International.

Human Rights Art Festival (2)
Overall, it didn't look all too different from a normal Saturday. I ran into one of my old high school friends, and neither he nor his friends even knew that there was anything special happening last weekend.

Human Rights Art Festival (4)
Out on Georgia Avenue, you'll find hand-written flyers. Note that this one points to three different locations but no specific events or times, meaning it's only useful if you already have the schedule - or you're looking for some coffee, in which case Kefa Cafe is right around the corner.

Human Rights Art Festival (7)
So I walk to Strawberry Field (also known as the empty lot that will eventually be part of the new Silver Spring Library), humming the Beatles song. It was empty. Checking the schedule later, I can see that there was a Ghanaian drum circle from 2 to 3, which I would've enjoyed, but I've already missed it.

Human Rights Art Festival (6)
Across the street in the windows of Mandalay, meanwhile, was a photo essay by the "Borderland Youth Project," which uses art to "reflect upon the rich cross-cultural, human experiences within the US/Mexico borderland region." It was an eye-catching installation, and one that caused people walking by to stop and look. I wish I'd seen more displays like it across Downtown Silver Spring to draw people into the festival.

Human Rights Art Festival (5)
There were people and cameras (and lovebirds) gathered outside Pyramid Atlantic across the street, but it wasn't clear what was going on. However, a guy did pull up to me in his car, asking if "this was the Art Festival, and where was Moorenko's," one of the venues. I knew I wasn't the only one trying to find something to do.

Human Rights Art Festival (8)
On the door of City Place Mall is another hand-written sign advertising a Sculpture Garden. If you followed the Sharpied arrows into the mall and up the escalator to the fifth floor, you'd have gotten your first (my second) chance to see the old AMC 10 Theatres since it closed in 2004, being used for the weekend as a gallery.

I actually enjoyed this exhibit. Though, much as City Place Mall has struggled to bring people in off the street and up five floors to shop, I wonder how many other people saw it.

The Human Rights Art Festival was in planning for the better part of a year, and the fact that its organizers were able to pull together dozens of venues and hundreds of participants was a success in itself. If it returns next spring, I hope it can be more of a presence in Downtown. Banners across major streets. Sidewalk installations and performances. Actual signage and wayfinding.

This is a great event for our community and an even better cause. Next year, let's make sure people know how much it means to us.

Monday, April 26, 2010

what's up the pike: i had hard hat head

Construction Workers In Scaffolding
- Capital City Cheesecake will finally open at the former Savory Cafe on Carroll Avenue in Old Town Takoma on May 1. Originally to open this month, the new cafe will boast couches for "laptop squatters" and a downstairs space that'll hold cooking classes.

- I'm wondering why a guest post on the Takoma Park-Silver Spring Co-Op landed on Prince of Petworth. Why waste your time? Honey, there are plenty of Silver Spring blogs you can send your tips to.

- Elizabeth Wright, granddaughter of architect Frank Lloyd Wright and a one-time MoCo resident, returns to speak about her new book at the Silver Spring library next month. Dear Bob, Dear Betty: Love and Marriage During the Great Depression is a recollection of her parents' marriage based on letters found in their Bethesda home, which was designed by Wright in 1953. The event's at 7:30pm on Tuesday, May 4 at the library, located of course at 8901 Colesville Road.

(If you're into architecture, you'll have no luck seeing this house outside of Google Images; it's never been open to the public, but you can sneak by if you're ever near Bradley Boulevard and Seven Locks Road. To see a Frank Lloyd Wright house without trespassing, visit the Pope-Leighey House in Alexandria.)

- Paint Branch High School's newspaper, the Mainstream, likes Papa John's in Burtonsville a little too much. (See what happens when you run out non-chain businesses?) Funnier is the ad next to the article saying Domino's beats Papa John's in a taste test:

Friday, April 23, 2010

what's up the pike: i think allergies are over

Tents Along Ellsworth Drive

- Have you had enough of reviews of 8407? Well, this one from Till It's Done is only pictures, because that'll make you hungrier than any verbal description of the food.

- Eric at Thayer Avenue makes the case for charging for parking on Saturdays in Downtown Silver Spring, and is patiently waiting for your vitriol if you disagree.

- Dskco at Lunchin' In The DMV got up early last weekend to try dim sum at Oriental East. "He tells me he's getting there 30 minutes early to stand in line before it opens. Line?! lol. The picture only shows half of the line. The rest of it is wrapped around the back of the building," she writes.

- Don't forget: Fenton Street Market is weekly now and back this Saturday from 9am to 3pm. Reemberto Rodriguez from the Silver Spring Regional Services Center writes about its local significance on his blog.

- And throughout the weekend, check out the first-annual Amnesty International Human Rights Art Festival, taking place in over forty venues across Downtown Silver Spring. JUTP wrote about it earlier this week, though I still can't say I understand just how big this thing's gonna be.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

putting the brakes on food trucks

Last Saturday marked the return of Fenton Street Market, a flea market that opened on an underused parking lot in Silver Spring's Fenton Village. It proves that you don't need much to create a place that people like to visit and spend time in. With so many other empty parking lots in Silver Spring and throughout the region, it seems like we should find more ways to reuse the space. For instance, putting food trucks on them.

Fenton Street Market, October 3 (2)
Fenton Street Market uses an empty parking lot in Silver Spring.

Food trucks have been around for a while, whether as the humble workplace "roach coach" or selling pupusas and tacos in immigrant enclaves like Langley Park. But there's also a growing "gourmet street food" across the country, in which cooks use trucks as a way to experiment with investing in a full kitchen.

Here in the District, you've probably seen eaten the Fojol Bros.' "Merlindian" cuisine. Meanwhile, Los Angelenos are chasing after Korean-Mexican fusion dishes served by Koji BBQ. These trucks are mobile, forbidden by law to stay in one place for too long - and that's fine when you're in a city with lots of dense, busy neighborhoods to hop between.

In small towns, on college campuses, and in suburban areas, trucks don't have the luxury of moving. That's when food truck courts make sense: instead of going to the hungry, the hungry come to you.

Portland Food Carts (2)
Food carts on an empty parking lot in downtown Portland.

My first encounter with a food truck court was at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey following an a cappella competition last spring. Amidst the bars and frat houses of Rutgers' student ghetto was a faculty parking lot given over to the Grease Trucks, a cluster of food carts that's become a school institution. Here's what I wrote about them in the U-Md. Diamondback:

The place was mobbed by students at 1 a.m., drunk and hungry for sandwiches with names such as "Fat Bitch." Picnic tables were set up for eating, and an adjacent bus stop brought in a constant stream of kids going to and from the fraternity parties a block away . . .

It wasn't just the food they serve - so-called "fat" sandwiches containing various combinations of chicken fingers, mozzarella sticks, French fries and sauces - or the fact that all this can be had (with a drink) for roughly $6 . . . The grease trucks were Rutgers' town square, a marketplace for midnight munchies, a very simple measure that turns an otherwise unassuming parking lot into a makeshift gathering place for college students.

Food Carts Outside Penn Hospital
Food trucks arranged in a cart at the University of Pennsylvania.

You'll find food truck courts in Philadelphia's University City, clustered around the campuses of Penn and Drexel. Empty parking lots in Downtown Los Angeles recently gave way to the city's first street food fair, managed by the nascent SoCal Mobile Food Vendors' Association. And even in rainy Portland, multiple food truck courts have appeared on parking lots throughout the city - so many that there's even a blog documenting them.

Food trucks are rarely pretty, relying on cheap, portable materials like folding chairs and collapsible awnings to do their business. But they provide a number of important functions. They give entrepreneurs a way to open shop with little overhead. That keeps prices low, encouraging experimentation while making the food more accessible to customers. (In Portland, you can get a five-course Indian meal from a truck for $6.)

Portland Food Carts
Gathering on the sidewalk outside Portland food carts.

In a court, food trucks become a social space, not just a quick lunch. Combine them with other uses, like the bus stop adjacent to Rutgers' Grease Trucks, and you have a community center.

This may not work everywhere. Food truck courts need at least some foot traffic - after all, if you're using a parking lot, where would customers put their cars? - so they should be in fairly dense places that people are going to anyway, and hopefully those place will have their own parking. Fenton Street Market is adjacent to dozens of established stores and restaurants all of which provide customers for each other and share public parking lots that have their own share of empty spaces.

We devote a surprising amount of land in East County, and across the region as a whole, to parking lots that are never fully used. We also have a dearth of places to hang out and, despite the economic recession, a dearth of affordable retail space for people with goods to sell. Food trucks seem like a way to kill two birds with one stone. They don't always move, but they're a great way to export different cultures, drive new ideas, and bring people together.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

what's up the pike: missing u

Co_nty Fire Station

- On Monday, the Post held an online chat on the history of the 9:30 Club with owner Seth Hurwitz, who bid - and failed - to operate the Fillmore music hall that'll be built in Downtown Silver Spring. When asked if the new club could hurt the 9:30, here's how he responded.

Fillmore: Seth, how worried are you about the club that's opening in Silver Spring? Is it going to do what the Black Cat did the first time?

Seth Hurwitz: I wouldn't be worried if it was opened by a competitor using normal economics

but when it's Live Nation, which buys shows just to add cash flow to cover debt, with no regard to the net...and subsidized by the government on top of's just not a level playing field

we compete every day against Black Cat, Birchmere, Wolf Trap...those people do a great job and compete under the same real world economics that we's all very fair, and we're all friends

- The first signs on the Silver Spring Heritage Trail, which marks historic buildings and landmarks throughout Downtown Silver Spring, were unveiled last Saturday. Check out the Silver Spring Neighborhoods blog for photos.

- Wayne at Finish the Trail makes a short video about the Georgetown Branch Trail in Woodside, which in its unfinished state puts bikers and joggers in the same space as cars. Meanwhile, he also points out that signs marking the "Future Capital Cres[c]ent Trail" in Downtown Silver Spring are not only misspelled, but in the wrong places as well.

- The Till It's Done food blog continues with awesome (and awesomely photographed) reviews of the Parkway Deli on Grubb Road and joins the chorus of bloggers digging Jackie's Sidebar.

- And speaking of eats: check out our new "food" category, featuring all of JUTP's posts about local restaurants over the past four years. You can find a link to it at the bottom of any post about food, or click "food" in the bar at the top of your screen.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

flash mobs, social commentary at this weekend's human rights festival

I first heard about this weekend's Amnesty International Human Rights Art Festival in October, and I didn't write about it then because, well, April just seemed so far away. As I've learned more about the event in the intervening months, I've had trouble just wrapping my head around it, finally coming to the realization that this is a big effing deal.

Let's look at the numbers: 400 artists. 200 arts & advocacy groups. 40 venues throughout Downtown Silver Spring. Three days. All of this has been organized by local artist Tom Block and a host committee that includes local, state and federal leaders. Not to mention, of course, executive producer Norman Lear. You might know him for directing a popular sitcom that dealt with issues of race and class. (That's right, I'm talking about 704 Hauser Street.)

Expression Live! Festival on Ellsworth
The Human Rights Art Festival will be like this, but much bigger.

And the jont is free. Pessimists might point out that with all of this stuff going on, and at such a low price, Downtown Silver Spring will be ridiculously congested this weekend. I mean, people are coming in from out of town for this, and we don't mean Bethesda. Is this bigger than the Jazz Festival? Most likely.

Here's an e-mail we got from Kathy Parrent about the festival (emphasis mine):

. . . The springtime festival will include art exhibits, film, theater, dance, music, poetry, photography, digital arts and a sculpture garden as well as dozens of workshops, book readings, performance art, a flash-mob dance, Yoga, and activities for children. The entire festival is free.

The goal of the festival is to raise awareness about the wide range of human rights abuses worldwide and to challenge, inspire and entertain the public while encouraging festival goers to consider these themes.

Many exhibits and performances will overlap or be held simultaneously so it’s best to plan ahead. For the complete schedule with descriptions, locations and a map, see Become a Facebook fan to check daily updates about the festival, or follow us on Twitter.

Here are just a few of the festival’s highlights:

- Peace Kissing Booth engages passers-by to kiss for peace and be photographed holding placards signifying surrogacy with a country with ongoing violence. (Andrea Collins, Regional Center Plaza.)

- “Sour Milk and Honey,” a documentary film about a young man of both Muslim and Jewish descent who makes his own personal pilgrimage to understand the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, showing Saturday at City Place Theater II (top level) at 1:15 pm.

- A flash mob dance led by the Liz Lerman Dance Company with Dance Metro DC, Sunday at 3:30 pm (20 minutes) Ellsworth Plaza.

- “Project Renew,” 20 drawings by Vietnamese children living in areas where land mines and bombs are still unexploded, Montgomery College.

- A panel discussion on “Theater as a Tool for Social Transformation” by theater critics including Nelson Montgomery of the Washington Post at Montgomery College PAC 203 on Saturday at 11:30 am.

- Portraits by festival producer and artist Tom Block of Gandhi, the Dalai Lama, Nigerian human rights activist Sowore Omoyele and Chinese dissident Wei Jing Sheng (who was imprisoned for 18 years) at Pyramid Atlantic Art Center.

Amnesty International seeks freedom for all "prisoners of conscience" – people who have been detained for their political, religious or other beliefs or their national or ethnic origin, color, sex or other status. It also works to ensure fair, prompt trials for political prisoners; to abolish torture and mistreatment of incarcerated persons and to end political killings and "disappearances." Amnesty International hopes the festival will raise awareness about human rights and prompt people to support the organization and sign up as members.

The Skater Mob, Ellsworth Drive
A flash mob? I wonder how flash mob creator Bill Wasik would feel about one being planned out months in advance. (I also hope that our flash mob doesn't turn out like Philadelphia's flash mobs.)

But either way, it looks like we've got quite a weekend ahead of us, whether you're planning on going to the festival or will just be around anyway. Here's hoping the festival is a success, puts Silver Spring on the map in a good way, and gets welcomed back next year.

Monday, April 19, 2010

east county's fast-food boom

Sure, all those Downtown Silver Spring folks get to brag about their speakeasies and honey-lavender roasted chicken, but we've got our own culinary renaissance happening Up The Pike. If you've been down Randolph Road in Colesville lately, you know we're getting another Wendy's.

That's right, y'all: it's the same spicy chicken fillet and frozen dairy dessert you've come to enjoy in Wheaton, Briggs Chaney, Aspen Hill and Calverton, now just ten minutes away from all of those places. With those kind of eating options, it's only a little disappointing that despite a change in liquor laws, an ongoing lack of investment in our local economy (other than things that can bring profits back to corporate headquarters in Dublin, Ohio), continue to render East County a fine-dining wasteland.

While the urban planner in me is cautiously excited about the provision of on-street parking, sidewalks, and outdoor dining at the Colesville Wendy's, it's frustrating that this new branch will look much like the other four within spitting distance of my house. Of course, this means that a restaurant that broke ground last month could have the fry-o-lators up and running by May Day, if not sooner.

This was the Colesville Wendy's on April 2:

Colesville Wendy's Under Construction

And here we are again on April 8:

Wendy's In Colesville, April 2010

And finally last Thursday, April 15:

Wendy's In Colesville

Now, don't get me started on the new Chick-Fil-A on Tech Road, which I guess is in the planting stage. (One big rainstorm and it will rise from the ground like a breaded phoenix.)

Westech Chick-Fil-A, April 2010

I love me some Chick-Fil-A (as I do Wendy's) and y'all know that I will be camping outside before opening day for a year's supply of chicken sandwiches. But it would be nice to see a little more variety where I live - food variety, which hopefully everyone can agree with. And of course, one could argue whether this Chick-Fil-A really represents a step down from the chain steakhouse we were supposed to get in that space.

But really, any new food that comes to East County, be it gourmet or gross, coupled with my increasingly sedentary lifestyle (the product of no longer living, walking - but not rioting - in College Park) will only continue to make me fat. So everything basically works out in the end.

what's up the pike: i (heart) you

I (Heart) You

- Lunchin' in the DMV tries Ethiopian for the first time - and what better place to do it than at Addis Ababa on Fenton Street? "Who says you have to go to Adams Morgan for good Ethiopian food because I had a great meal there," writes blogger Dskco. "Our server was super nice and humored me when I tried to pronounce my dish's name."

- The Park and Planning Commission is putting bee hives atop the Fortress of Planning Planting and setting up some vegetable gardens outside - in case, you know, a public hearing runs late and someone gets hungry. But because planners aren't paid to garden, they could use some help and are accepting donations for planting materials.

- The Till It's Done blog reviews the Five Guys on Tech Road. We're not sure if our Five Guys is different from any other, but the photos are compelling enough. (They might want to knock the apostrophe out of "Five Guy's," though.) Also check out their write-up of Quarry House Tavern, burnishing their credentials as burger-and-fry connoisseurs.

- Did you know Route 29 goes into D.C.? It does, and though it doesn't pass through Dupont Circle anymore, the signs posted will still take you there anyway. Keep following it, and you can take The Pike all the way to Pensacola, Florida.

- 8pm tonight, local swing band Swingtopia returns for another month of shows at Greek Village Restaurant in Colesville. The restaurant's located at New Hampshire Avenue and Randolph Road; for more info, check out Swingtopia's website.

Friday, April 16, 2010

what's up the pike: after-tax day celebration

- TONIGHT is Blake High School's Comedy Night, with a performance by Baltimore-based hypnotist Jason Linett, an open mike, and a Last Blake Comic Standing competition They'll also have an open mike and a student stand-up competition with guest judges Linett, school board member (and former Blake parent) Phil Kauffman, and Blake alumni Dan Reed. Check out this preview of the student comics you'll see there.

The show starts at 7:30pm; tickets are $8, can be purchased at the door or online, and benefit the Blake PTSA scholarship fund. For more info, e-mail Jack Goble at comedynight at gmail dot com or check out the event's page on Facebook.

- And don't forget: tomorrow is the return of Fenton Street Market in its new, weekly iteration with dozens of new vendors. There's also a new addition called the Village Square, a sort of workshop led by local businesses and sponsored by the Peterson Companies, the good folks who brought you Downtown Silver Spring. This week, the Pyramid Atlantic Art Center will teach you how to do screen-printing. It all goes down from 9am to 3pm in the parking lot at Fenton Street and Silver Spring Avenue.

- Meanwhile, it's also Record Store Day, the "one day that all of the independently owned record stores come together with artists to celebrate the art of music," according to their website. Here in East County we've got THREE participating venues. There's Joe's Record Paradise - which hosted local country-jazz legend Chick Hall last weekend - and CD-Game Exchange, both located at Georgia and Ripley in Downtown Silver Spring, along with CD-Game Exchange's new store on Carroll Avenue in Takoma Park.

- Pacci's Pizzeria and new restaurant/brewpub Fire Station 1 will open within the next month, says SoCo Eats, meaning you've got two more reasons to venture south on Georgia Avenue. They're both located at Georgia and Silver Spring Avenue, on either side of the World Building.

- Meanwhile, Eric at Thayer Avenue went to 8407 with his wife and calls it "possibly the best restaurant right now in Silver Spring." What say you, Nacho?

Above photo from friend of JUTP Chip Py.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

my big announcement

Woodland Walk & 37th
I spread myself thin in college. I scooped ice cream. I sang in an a cappella group. I even wrote a column for a magazine. Occasionally, I'd hunt down security guards, embarrass my roommates and eat sushi off of bikini-clad women.

I assumed that a resume of winning design competitions, poster campaigns and scribbled CD covers would make me a shoo-in for two more years of architecture school, nevermind how ambivalent I was about it, or how poor my grades were in the classes that mattered - little things like, you know, Structures. But I was still surprised to receive six rejection letters, even from Maryland, which especially stung. (Robert Frost was wrong: I considered my alma mater home, but it was not a place where when I showed up, that they had to take me in. I also have a degree in English.)

And then a seventh showed up, in a big fat envelope from the University of Pennsylvania. You didn't get into our architecture program, it said, but we welcome you to PennPlanning. Much later I realized that, in filling out my application, I'd accidentally checked a box on the form saying I wanted to go to planning school.

I would've thought about planning school more seriously. It didn't help that I hated the two planning classes I took at Maryland. But in urban planning, they don't care if your building stands up. They care if the people living there are happy and get along and have access to good jobs and can easily take a train or a bike or a car to those jobs, which are all things I can get on board with.

So now I am moving to Philadelphia to attend the University of Pennsylvania. I'm leaving at the end of the summer. This will be the first time I've been outside the state of Maryland for more than two weeks. It's certainly not a big move - you can make the trip in two-and-a-half hours without traffic - but one that will definitely change my life in more ways than one. It may also mean the end of this blog.

I say "may" because I love this community and I really want to come back and continue working to make it better. If there's a way I can do that from Philadelphia, I'd like to. Of course, I might have a new project waiting for me there.

Before I go, I'd like to have some kind of party or something to say goodbye to those of y'all I have or have not met but have supported me over the past four (!!!) years. And I'm also desperate to learn more about Philly, a city I've maybe visited five times my entire life, including Penn's open house last weekend. I've already learned that my beloved pollo a la brasa is almost impossible to get there. So I'm pretty worried about that. But this way you know I'll be coming back here, if only to load up with Peruvian chicken.

Anyway, I took some photos in Philadelphia over the weekend. Check them out.

what's up the pike: like the cut of your jib

- Check out this preview of Blake High School's Comedy Night tomorrow, with a performance by Baltimore-based hypnotist Jason Linett, an open mike, and a Last Blake Comic Standing competition They'll also have an open mike and a student stand-up competition with three guest judges, including Blake alumni Dan Reed.

The show starts at 7:30pm; tickets are $8, can be purchased at the door or online, and benefit the Blake PTSA scholarship fund. For more info, e-mail Jack Goble at comedynight at gmail dot com or check out the event's page on Facebook.

- Tonight, the Planning Department's speaker series, ReThink Montgomery, continues this with a discussion on "Infrastructure, featuring panelists Casey Anderson of theWashington Area Bicyclist Association (and a Woodside resident) and planning consultant Richard Layman, who writes Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space. The show starts at 7:30pmat 8787 Georgia Avenue in Downtown Silver Spring.

- If you haven't read this week's Gazette, go out to your driveway and fish it out from underneath the car. Both Good Eatin' and Maryland Politics Watch sing the praises of this week's issue and its triple-header of stories on Wheaton's nascent revitalization. If you're thinking that the 'Wheat needs some big office anchor like Discovery Communications to turn around, I give an explanation why that might not be the case.

- Construction starts on the new White Oak Recreation Center later this month! The new facility on April Lane near Lockwood Drive, will also include a skate spot - meaning that with the forthcoming Woodside Park skate spot, East County kids could have a busy summer. And neighborhood adults are unusually giddy about the possibilities:

White Oak resident Germaine Ferrall has no kids of her own, but was one of the major proponents for a skate spot at the new recreation center. "We have too many multifamily buildings in a very small area," she said. "It's very compressed. ... And where can these children go? If we don't have the facilities for them, they'll start to look for other distractions. So I think the more we do for the kids, the less chance they'll get in trouble."

- I know y'all have been waiting a while to hear my big announcement, so it shouldn't be any trouble to come back here at TWELVE O'CLOCK NOON!!! and find out what it is. See you soon!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

courts of woodside

Twins and Bus Stop
The Courts of Woodside is a twenty-three-home neighborhood under construction on Georgia Avenue at Noyes Drive north of Downtown Silver Spring. It's built by the Kentlands Company, a descendant of those who developed the now-famous neighborhood of the same name in Gaithersburg.

Unlike Kentlands, which was built twenty years ago on a farm at the suburban fringe, the Courts of Woodside occupies an infill lot in an area dating to the turn of the 20th century that's now increasingly urban. It presents an not-so-unusual challenge to the architects (whom I worked for briefly one summer many years ago): how can you build something without disrupting the historic character of the neighborhood?

The answer, it turned out, was literally to move the past. Three old, decaying houses on site were fully restored and shifted elsewhere, making room for twenty new townhouses. Here's one of those three houses in 2007 . . .

Old House In Courts of Woodside, 2007
and here's one today. You can see how the new townhouses have a similar color palette and use the same materials and trim as their older counterparts, creating a unified look. It good example for other infill projects in Downtown Silver Spring and throughout the county and shows that new development doesn't have to stick out, regardless of building type or cost.

Corner of Noyes and Courts Way
Also note that end townhouses have a door on the side, giving them the appearance of a large, detached home. That's just one of the many ways a good designer can "disguise" attached housing, making it blend better in neighborhoods with lots of single-family homes.

Of course, the developers could have built this entire project with single-family homes. But it'd be a waste of a site blocks from Downtown Silver Spring and on top of the Red Line and several Metrobus routes that stop at the corner of Georgia and Noyes - a place where new housing wouldn't automatically mean more car trips because residents would have alternative ways to get around. It would also prevent them from providing small pocket parks within the development, offering residents and visitors alike places to sit and enjoy the scenery.

A Porch In Silver Spring
Of course, even the townhouses in the Courts of Woodside aren't cheap, with prices reaching well over half a million dollars. But when you'll find mostly apartments and condos south of Spring Street and single-family houses north of it, this development creates a new choice for people moving to the area.

There aren't many places where you can lie in a hammock on a porch and see a city skyline. Building up our urban centers is important, but so is taking advantage of underutilized land in our residential neighborhoods as well. After all, not everyone wants to live downtown. And with projects like the Courts of Woodside, we can provide more choices for people who'd like a little city in their suburb - or vice versa.

Check out this slideshow of the Courts of Woodside.