Friday, May 28, 2010

silver spring charrette: "it's an urban area. accept it!"

Yesterday, we talked about the issue of "style vs. character at last week's Fenton Street Market charrette. That was just one of the concerns raised by the residents and stakeholders who came out to offer their thoughts on the future of Silver Spring.

Dan & Laurence With Participants
Architects Dan Morales (left) and Laurence Caudle (right) talk to a resident.

We had charrette participants give us their thoughts on large easel boards, and reading those you could see the split between those averse to change and those excited about recent and future changes in Silver Spring. For every "No Purple Line" or "Too Much Density," there were calls for more housing, more shopping, and more transit.

"Build The Hell Out Of It!" one person directed. "It's An Urban Area - Accept It!" said another.

While those who were uncomfortable with new development tended to be older, those in support of it were of all ages. Take Florence and her husband. They're retired and live just across the D.C. line in Takoma, a neighborhood with history to spare.

They come to Silver Spring "every weekend," for dinner, a movie, and a walk along Ellsworth Drive, Florence says. Her husband was an architect, as is her son now. But they don't have much complaint about "fake" buildings. "We love the vibrancy, the people," she says of Silver Spring.

Angela, meanwhile, notes that Silver Spring doesn't feel as "old" as other cities she's lived in, like Boston. But she's worried about the lack of places for her tweenaged son and his friends to go skating.

"We break all the rules to let him go out," she says, clutching a longboard. (Is it for her or her son? I wasn't sure.) "Otherwise, I'd be chasing him around downtown."

She points to a picture of the National Institute of Dyers and Cleaners at Georgia and Burlington avenues. It's been abandoned for decades, but there are plans to turn it into condos. "I tell myself that when I strike it rich, I'm gonna buy that place and turn it into a skate park," Angela says.

One concern almost everyone I spoke to raised was pedestrian safety. Jonathan lives in nearby Seven Oaks and walks to Fenton Street Market. He knows that a denser, busier downtown Silver Spring will require more people to be able to walk places - but "Silver Spring is quickly becoming unwalkable," he laments.

Wayne & Fenton Intersection (Dan Reed)
Colesville Road Section (Dan Reed)
LEFT: Redoing the intersection of Wayne Avenue and Fenton Street. RIGHT: A median strip for Colesville Road. Drawings by Dan Reed.

Foot traffic has grown in recent years, but pedestrians are often no match for wide roads designed to move lots of cars. In the CBD and surrounding neighborhoods, many sidewalks have no buffer from traffic, giving pedestrians as little as three feet of concrete between them and cars whizzing by at 50 miles an hour.

The suggestions are simple: Street trees to buffer walkers from traffic; raised crosswalks at busy intersections to slow cars down; and swapping the reversible lanes on main roads like Georgia and Colesville with landscaped medians.

These changes are expensive, and it's often more palatable for county officials to install cameras to ticket speeding drivers instead. But pedestrian improvements could be done while building the Purple Line, which will require redoing many downtown streets. That's already happening H Street in D.C., which is being rebuilt while new streetcar tracks are laid.

This kind of pragmatism is a great outcome for any planning workshop, but organizers Hannah McCann and myself were hoping to spark some creativity as well. I was excited by the guy who said Silver Spring "could really use some flying cars," and by our architects, who by the afternoon had turned to their markers and trace paper and sketched out their own visions for downtown.

Vision of Fenton Village (Darrel Rippeteau)
Darrel Rippeteau's vision for Georgia Avenue.

Fred and Ginger (Laurence Caudle)
Laurence Caudle's Fred and Ginger-inspired building on Fenton Street.

Dan Morales, who lives in nearby East Silver Spring, broke downtown's superblocks with a new street grid. Laurence Caudle from Hickok Cole drew buildings on Fenton Street that resembled Fred and Ginger, a building designed by Frank Gehry in Prague. And Darrel Rippeteau of Rippeteau Architects imagined Georgia Avenue as an elegant urban promenade, "as good as Boulevard Saint-Michel" in Paris, he said.

These seemingly fanciful ideas were welcome after the often-contentious discussions that took place throughout the charrette. It's easy to get lathered up over your favorite issue, but harder to take a step back and remember that, at the end of the day, we're all trying to make a better community.

I'm hoping to take all of the notes and drawings we generated at last Saturday's charrette and, with some help, organize an exhibit to be displayed in the Silver Spring Civic Building when it finally opens in July. It's a chance to capture a moment in history when we had so much to remember, but much more to look forward to as well.

Check out this slideshow of the Fenton Street Market charrette.

what's up the pike: burtonsville island?

Drayton Avenue, Hampshire Hamlet (1)

- Blake High School will say farewell to soon-to-be-former principal Carole Goodman in a tribute on June 10. Two weeks ago, she was tapped to become an Associate Superintendent for MCPS, leading its Office of Human Resources and Development. The school's looking for students and alumni willing to put together a tribute to Principal Goodman - if you're interested, you can visit the event's page on Facebook.

- From the Gazette: the developer of the new Burtonsville Town Square shopping center says he wants a "destination" for Burtonsville, but seems to forget he evicted the one we already had.

When Burtonsville Town Square opens later this summer, you can expect to find "chain restaurants", "another bank" in addition to the Chevy Chase Bank that just opened there - and, surprisingly, a "native plant garden island" with play areas for kids. It's not an actual square or a farmers' market, but it's certainly a nice touch.

In addition:

- Fire Station 1, the new restaurant in the former Silver Spring firehouse, opens "this week," says the Gazette, but their website doesn't list an actual date.

- A man was robbed and forced off the top of a parking deck in downtown Wheaton, reports the Post. He'll be okay, thankfully, but the two men who allegedly mugged him are still at large.

- Maryland Politics Watch examines the ministry of Vanessa Ali, a Burtonsville Democrat running for state delegate.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

silver spring charrette: style vs. character

Last Saturday, designers, architects and planners held a charrette, or design workshop, at Fenton Street Market in downtown Silver Spring.

East Silver Spring resident Hannah McCann, who founded the market last fall, organized the event. A senior editor for Architect magazine, she enlisted several local design professionals to lead the workshop, talking and drawing with those who came by. With my help as moderator, we developed three questions to ask the public:

1) What kind of development should we have in Silver Spring?
2) How much development should we have?
3) How should we get around?

Dozens (if not hundreds) of residents stopped by to give input on how they'd like Silver Spring to grow. Most seemed happy with the community they live in today, but there was a lot of disagreement over its future. Over the next few days, we'll look at some of the issues that charrette participants raised.

Style vs. Character

Style is how most people who aren't architecturally trained understand the built environment. It's easy to "get" buildings if you can classify them as Victorian, Modernist or Art Deco. But style doesn't describe how a building works with or against its occupants, site and neighbors.

Building Strangler (Steve Knight)
An "ugly, modern box." Drawing by Steve Knight.

Many people complained about the increase in "ugly, modern boxes" in Silver Spring. "I'm sick of all this glass and chrome," complains one woman. (We eventually figure out that by "chrome" she means "steel," as downtown Silver Spring is not a 1957 Chevy Bel-Air.) She feels that newer buildings downtown were cold and sterile and preferred older buildings. They're the soul of Silver Spring, she says.

She also doesn't like the new development on Ellsworth Drive. It has little glass or steel, but it was designed to feel like an outdoor shopping mall, not a city street. It feels "fake" to her, the woman laments.

"Of course it looks fake," I say, picking up a marker. "It's new." I start drawing and explain. Parts of Ellsworth pay homage to the old stuff - the Majestic 20 theatre, for instance, mimics the curved façade of the historic Hecht Company building (now City Place Mall) across the street.

Fenton & Ellsworth (Dan Reed)

Fenton and Ellsworth In The Snow

Left: My drawing comparing the Majestic 20 (left) to City Place Mall. Right: the Majestic 20 in real life.

"And even though the buildings may seem inauthentic, the people are always real," I continue. "Kids my age, who grew up with Ellsworth Drive, love this place. I'll bet you that in twenty years, it will be an integral part of Silver Spring's culture."

Nonetheless, she asks me to draw her some traditional buildings for Silver Spring. I draw her a picture of some old storefronts on Georgia Avenue. They look much as they did in the 1920's, but have since experienced ninety years of history: different shops, different people, different times. "I love it!" she says, throwing up her hands in delight.

"What you're looking for is character," suggests Darrel Rippeteau of Rippeteau Architects. "In the future, say you want more character, not less modern."

Vision of Fenton Village (Tony, Sandy & Steve Knight)
Steve, Tony and Sandy's "Vision for Fenton Village."

A few tables away, architect Steve Knight of David M. Schwarz Architects and my friends Tony Maiolatesi and Sandy Schwartz - like me, both recent grads of the University of Maryland - are drawing a "Vision for Fenton Village" with traditional buildings. It didn't look too different from Bethesda Row or Kentlands, developments purposely designed to feel old.

These places have good urban design, with buildings close to the street and smaller, human-scaled features. There's also been no shortage of complaints that their style - lots of bricks, double-hung windows, and arches - feels "kitschy" or nostalgic.

The Good Life (Darrel Rippeteau)
1920's-era storefronts on Georgia Avenue, drawn by Darrel Rippeteau.

Of course, many people like and often prefer this aesthetic. But these two things are mutually exclusive. You can have an attractive building with poor urban design, like this strip mall in Frederick. But you can also have buildings with great urban design but poor aesthetics, like those along Ellsworth.

Yet none of these buildings can really have "character," no matter how old they look, if they're new. Character takes time to create, but it doesn't discriminate by architectural style. It is helped, however, by good urban form that encourages people to spend time in a place.

If we want a Silver Spring with character, we should worry less about the aesthetics of a building and more about how they relate to the user and to their context.

Come back tomorrow for part TWO of our charrette re-cap, but in the meantime, check out this slideshow of the Fenton Street Market charrette.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

what's up the pike: high society, indeed

Wendy's In Colesville, May 2010
- The East County fast-food boom rages on! In Colesville, the new Wendy's inches ever closer to completion, with a "Now Hiring" sign prominently displayed in the front window of the fast-food joint, located at Vital Way and Randolph Road.

- Meanwhile in Calverton, the new Chick-Fil-A at Tech Road won't open until July 29, says owner/operator Erik Amick, who we interviewed a few weeks ago. The store was originally supposed to open two weeks earlier, but hiring's still on schedule to begin in June, he says. For more information, join their page on Facebook.

- Tinsley Mortimer, star of the CW show High Society, was spotted at a fashion show in Bethesda Row last week. Don't worry if the only word in that sentence you understood was "Bethesda," because you're not alone. Dare we hope that a little bit of her star power lands in Silver Spring, where all we have is Sarah Palin's lousy reality show?

- Jerry McCoy and the Historical Society find a time capsule of sorts in the Silver Spring Moose Lodge at Wayne and Fenton, which was demolished earlier this month to build the new library.

- On June 5, local environmentalists and students at Northwood High will celebrate the opening of the Northwood Chesapeake Bay Trail, connecting the school, located at University Boulevard and Arcola Avenue, to Northwest Branch Park. The trail sits on fifteen acres originally purchased by the State Highway Administration for a spur of Route 29. It became a de facto landfill before some 272 people, mostly students, began cleaning it up last fall. The celebration, which includes a 5k run, starts at 10am at the school. For more info, contact Jennifer Chambers at jennifer at hikingalong dot com.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

fredneck, but not really

A few weeks ago, my friends and I drove up to Frederick for the day. Though I'd never before been there, I definitely found a lot that we could learn from here in Silver Spring. Forget "Fredneck." No matter what color their necks may be, this place is far from backwards.

You can imagine my surprise when, after we parked in the very center of downtown, I stepped out of the car to see a bustling, if small, business district. "Wow!" I exclaimed. "Frederick is just like a city, but smaller!"

As if on cue, a guy in a baseball cap walked by and yelled, "Don't get excited. It sucks."

Trellis & Stone Bridge
Running through Downtown Frederick is Carroll Creek Park, a recently renovated promenade along a tributary of the Monocacy River. Completed in 2006, the park began as a flood-control project after rainstorms in the 1970's decimated the business district. Today, it's a gorgeous urban space, lined with new apartments, offices, and some shops and restaurants. On a Saturday afternoon, the creek was hopping as people strolled the banks and gathered on outdoor patios.

Chain Stores At Carroll Creek
New development usually means higher rents, so much of the retail along Carroll Creek is occupied by chain stores like Five Guys and Ben & Jerry's. That's almost all the chains you'll find in downtown Frederick, where mom-and-pops dominate.

Romanesque Building, Market & Church
Market and Patrick streets form the spine of downtown Frederick. Some of the 2,500 buildings in the surrounding historic district date to the 19th century - and were preserved after the city paid off Confederate General Jubal Early not to burn it down during the Civil War. Unscarred by 20th century attempts at urban renewal, the downtown feels as vibrant as cities several times its size.

Pitcrew Skate Shop, Market & 2nd
Jane Jacobs argued that older buildings keep rents down - many are paid off, and the costs of renovating one are often lower than building new. In downtown Frederick, that means small businesses can afford to set up shop here, meaning a greater variety of shops and a stronger sense of place. Among the offerings are a store that sells puzzles and knives (in the same space), a store that sells kitschy toys in the front (and modern furniture in the back), and this surprisingly large skate shop.

Shaggy Dog Stories, Market & 3rd
A business district filled with local businesspeople engenders a strong sense of community. You're more likely to know - and trust - the people running the puzzle and knife store. Many shopkeepers along Market Street put out water dishes for dogs, and if you're walking one, no one thinks twice about approaching you.

New Townhomes, East 5th
As we saw at Carroll Creek, the quality of new development in Frederick is excellent. Having so many older buildings around means the bar's raised high for new stuff. The same goes for residential buildings, like these new rowhouses just off Market Street.

Shitty Strip Mall, Market & 4th
Not everything is as nice. This vacant strip mall at Market and 4th uses brick and double-hung windows to look historic, but setting it back behind a big parking lot kills the sidewalk life. This is just four blocks north from downtown, and it's not surprising that shops further north of this strip aren't doing so well.

Market & All Saints
But overall, Frederick's an awesome example of how to make a city work. You've got strong (though not always historic) architecture, streets that favor pedestrians over cars, a really strong mix of uses and activities, and a commitment to quality open space. It's definitely an example for how communities across Maryland - including here in Silver Spring - can improve themselves in the future.

It's hard to deny that all of these things contribute to a strong sense of community and local pride, as witnessed in this hilarious video spoofing Jay-Z and Alicia Keys' "Empire State of Mind". Hey, where's our "Silver Spring State of Mind"?

Also, check out this photoset of downtown Frederick.

Monday, May 24, 2010

photos from the blues festival

Last Saturday's charrette at Fenton Street Market left me completely wiped and barely able to drive home, let alone stick around for the second-annual Silver Spring Blues Festival. Come back tomorrow for more on the charrette, but in the meantime, friend of JUTP and awesome photographer Chip Py sent us these photos of the event, which featured performances from a slew of the D.C.-area's best blues outfits.

Paul Bell and Johnny Castle of The Nighthawks.

Mark Wenner of The Nighthawks.

Mary Shaver of Mary Shaver and the Smokin' Polecats.

Chip's caption: "BwwaaHahahahaha." It certainly is ironic.

what's up the pike: put a strap on your head?

- Sk8ter Mom (see her profile in last week's Gazette if you missed it) posts this video of an argument between a skateboarder and security guards on Ellsworth Drive. (Warning: there's some strong language.) It's a little unclear what's happening here: who provoked whom, and why the security guards are literally following this kid down the street. What do you think?

- The City Paper's Tim Carman gets an exclusive tour of the kitchen at Hollywood East Cafe, which just reopened at Westfield Wheaton Wheaton Plaza earlier this year. "Out in Hollywood East’s cavernous dining room, I suspect few customers understand how much work [head chef Kenny] Lei and his team put into the plates that crowd those rolling steam carts," writes Carman, who favorably compares the restaurant to trendier dim-sum places that have popped up in D.C.

- Good Eatin' visits Mrs. K's Toll House on Colesville Road. "Mrs. K’s will never be hip or trendy, like say the new 8407, but it remains one of the nicest restaurants in this neck of the MoCo," he writes.

- Freelance writer and blogger/Briggs Chaney resident/friend of JUTP Whitney Teal laments the lack of coffee shops in East County, especially the ones that aren't welcoming to laptop-campers like herself. (Hey, at least she isn't breast-feeding or staging a protest in favor of breast-feeding there.) It's all on her new blog, The Washington Media Project, about "Newspapers, magazines, books, television, radio, blogs, social media (and staffers) in the Washington, D.C. area."

Friday, May 21, 2010

what's up the pike: better see y'all tomorrow

Skaters At Commerce & Old Georgetown, Bethesda
- If you're coming to tomorrow's Fenton Street Market, please stop by the Silver Spring Charrette table, where seven local architects and myself will be there to help you envision our community's future. The charrette runs from 10am to 2pm, and the market from 9am to 3pm, in the parking lot at Fenton Street and Silver Spring Avenue.

- Also tomorrow: the second-annual Silver Spring Blues Festival, headlined by legendary D.C. blues group The Nighthawks - featured on HBO's The Wire - takes over Ellsworth Drive from 2pm on.

- The Handmade Mart returns to Downtown Silver Spring this Sunday. The "annual, juried, independent craft fair" takes over the block of Ellsworth Drive between Georgia Avenue and Fenton Street from 10am to 5pm. Check out this guest post about last year's Handmade Mart from friend of JUTP (and County Council candidate) Hans Riemer.

- Kensington Arts Theatre's production of the musical Violet (which we reviewed earlier this week ends its four-week run tonight at 8pm, with one last performance tomorrow at 8pm. As always, you can find them in the Kensington Town Hall, located at 3710 Mitchell Street in Kensington. For more info and to buy tickets, check out


- Rockville Central wonders if the InterCounty Connector, set to open next year, could help or hurt property values along the highway.

- MPW says we're the #2 local blog in Maryland.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

an open letter to andres duany

Main at Alfandre St (Again)
I have a post today at Greater Greater Washington. Normally, I cross-post between here and there, but I figured I might make this one an exclusive piece, if only because it has little to do with East County. Check it out.

(Duany is the guy who designed Kentlands in Gaithersburg, if you don't know, and is probably most responsible - indirectly - for many of Montgomery County's "town centers," among them Bethesda Row and Downtown Silver Spring.)

what's up the pike: special thursday lunchtime edition

Perpetual Building, Cameron at Georgia
- Jerry McCoy points us to a new website celebrating the work of the Bank Building & Equipment Corporation of America, who designed the Perpetual Building at Georgia Avenue and Cameron Street. If you're a fan of mid-century modern architecture, you'll find no shortage of 1950's-era glory (like this cutie in Newport Beach, CA) there.

- Good Eatin' compares the banh mi at Saigonese and Hung Phat in Wheaton but, of course, finds no comparison to the former, and much better, sandwich.

- Planner Josh Sloan at The Straight Line enjoys the public art in the plaza at the new United Therapeutics building at Cameron and Fenton streets.

- A positive review, with photos, of Cuba de Ayer in Burtonsville.

- Washington Gardener Magazine, published by East Silver Spring resident and friend of JUTP Kathy Jentz, is looking for college-aged summer interns interested in learning about magazine journalism. The unpaid intern would spend 10-20 hours each week conducting interviews, proofreading and editing articles, blogging and doing a social media campaign, among other tasks. For more information, e-mail Kathy Jentz at wgardenermag at aol dot com.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

blake principal tapped as new MCPS associate superintendent

Looking Down Bus Lane
Blake High School principal Carole Goodman has been tapped to become an Associate Superintendent for Montgomery County Public Schools. She was appointed to lead the school system's Office of Human Resources and Development at a Board of Education meeting last week.

"This opportunity allows me to give back to MCPS in the areas I enjoy most, which are hiring and training outstanding people," Goodman wrote in a letter to parents and students. "While I am excited by this prospect, leaving Blake is one of the most difficult things I can imagine."

An educator since the 1970's, Goodman became principal of the then-Northeast Area High School, located on Norwood Road in Cloverly, in 1997. The school was renamed after jazz musician "Eubie" Blake before it opened in the fall of 1998. In 2005, she was profiled by Bethesda Magazine (not available online); the following year, she gained national attention for scheduling one lunch period for the entire school, encouraging students to mix while providing a time to meet in clubs and with teachers during the day.

Goodman will take her new office on July 1; meanwhile, a search for a new principal is underway. Teacher Scott Sussman, who graduated from Blake in 2002, is organizing a tribute to Goodman open to "all former and current students, staff, parents, and members of the community." For more info, you can e-mail him at scott_a_sussman at mcpsmd dot org.

Goodman was my principal while I went to Blake (c/o 2005!) and though I didn't always agree with her, it's hard to deny that our school would have been so well-regarded without her. She will be missed. Below is the full text of Principal Goodman's letter:

Dear Blake Students and Parents:

This is without a doubt one of the most difficult letters I have had to write. At today’s meeting of the Montgomery County Board of Education, I was appointed to the position of Associate Superintendent for the Office of Human Resources and Development, effective July 1, 2010. Other than working with students, this opportunity allows me to give back to MCPS in the areas I enjoy most, which are hiring and training outstanding people. While I am excited by this prospect, leaving Blake is one of the most difficult things I can imagine.

I have had incredible opportunities in my 37 year career, but none will ever rival opening and leading James Hubert Blake High School for the past 13 years. Blake has been a labor of love for me, and I can honestly say I looked forward to going to school every day. From the first year before Blake even opened—when we wrestled with issues from boundaries in the Northeast Consortium to choosing a school name, mascot and colors—to the dynasty we have built as a strong community dedicated to excellence in academics, the arts and humanities and athletics, it has been energizing and exciting. Along the way, we have all come together to create an inclusive, creative and welcoming school culture where everyone is valued, that keeps our students coming back to visit with a sense of pride and belonging that is unmatched in Montgomery County.

In a short time, you will be getting information on the process for identifying my replacement. I hope you will be a part of the process and know that James Hubert Blake High School will be left in good hands.

I will have much more to share with you before I leave but, more than anything, I thank you for allowing me to be your principal for all these years. Thirteen years represents the span of a child’s public school education, from kindergarten to graduation, and I am humbled and honored to have served you for this time at James Hubert Blake High School. Go Bengals!


Carole C. Goodman

what's up the pike: call of the wild

Call Of The Wild
- Fire Station 1, a new restaurant and brewpub opening in the historic Silver Spring Fire Station, could open as early as Friday, reports the City Paper. They've brought on new chef Chad Wisner, fresh from cooking in . . . Erickson retirement communities. Has anyone eaten the food at Riderwood Village? Is it good?

- First Lady of the United States Michelle Obama will be visiting New Hampshire Estates Elementary School near Long Branch today. She'll be joined by Margarita Zavala, first lady of Mexico, to talk about good nutrition in schools.

- If you're coming to this Saturday's Fenton Street Market, please stop by the Silver Spring Charrette table, where seven local architects and myself will be there to help you envision our community's future. The charrette runs from 10am to 2pm, and the market from 9am to 3pm, in the parking lot at Fenton Street and Silver Spring Avenue.

In addition:

- Eric at Thayer Avenue calls B.S. on the ongoing push to build a bridge connecting the new Silver Spring Library to the parking garage across Wayne Avenue.

- Meanwhile, Karl at Silver Spring, Singular takes a hike through Northwest Branch Park. We're not sure how he got there, being that it's in his assigned "Silver Spring In Name Only" territory, but we're glad to have him anyway.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

silver spring charrette at fenton street market this weekend!

Pointing To A Map
This week at Fenton Street Market, I'll be moderating a community charrette on the future of Silver Spring. Market founder Hannah McCann conceived the event, which will run from 10am to 2pm on Saturday at the corner of Fenton Street and Silver Spring Avenue.

A charrette is a short, intense design workshop usually involving designers, public officials, and members of the general public. They're meant to create a vision of what a community's stakeholders would like to see the place become. Two years ago, Burtonsville held a charrette for its village center (pictured above), with dubious results.

Seven local architects will be leading the Fenton Street Market charrette, which raises the question, "What is Silver Spring now? What should it become?" They'll be manning tables at the market, which you can stop at throughout the day and put in your two cents.

We'll have photos from Silver Spring's past, courtesy of the Historical Society, and its future - like this building at right, set to rise on Ripley Street. I'll take your thoughts, suggestions and sketches and hang them up for all to see - and for Reemberto Rodriguez, director of the Silver Spring Regional Services Center, to preserve for posterity.

Adapted from a press release and brainstorming Hannah and I have done over the past few weeks:
Silver Spring’s downtown area has seen rapid growth in the last decade, and there’s more to come. Hotly debated issues include how to balance new and old construction, how to develop the Fenton Street Village area, and how residential and commercial neighborhoods can coexist in harmony. The May 22 design charrette is an opportunity to shape your vision for the future of the neighborhood.

The Goal
For the community, a better understanding of what YOU do and the value designers bring to community development;
For politicians, the media, and developers, a better understanding of what this community sees in its future.

Participating Architects
- Jill Schick, principal of Schick Goldstein Architects, who designed the United Therapeutics building at Cameron and Spring streets
- Daniel Morales, architect at Silver Spring-based Gilday Renovations and resident of Thayer Avenue
- Darrel Rippeteau, principal of Rippeteau Architects, who designed streetscape improvements along Georgia Avenue in Shepherd Park, D.C.
- Laurence Caudle, associate principal with Hickok Cole Architects, designing the new Fillmore music hall on Colesville Road
- Sheila Brady, principal of landscape architecture firm Oehme, van Sweden and Associates
- David Bell, principal of Bell Architects
- John Marcolin, urban designer at the Montgomery County Planning Department

The Four Questions
1) What will Silver Spring look like in 5, 10 or 20 years?
2) What do we want built in our neighborhood?
3) How much development do we want?
4) How will we get around?
For more information, you can e-mail me at justupthepike at gmail dot com or Hannah at hannah at fentonstreetmarket dot com. We'll see you on Saturday!

daily snapshot: winsor the cat (1992-2010)

Pla-Za Art Store Cat

Sad news from the art world today: Winsor, the cat who lounged in the display windows of Pla-Za Art on Georgia Avenue since 1992, passed away last week. He's survived by his sister Newton (if you, like me, ever buy paints you know what the joke is.) I'm not sure which cat is in this photo I took last fall, but our thoughts are with Newton and her sentient caretakers.

(Thanks to Jerry McCoy for the heads-up.)

Monday, May 17, 2010

new chick-fil-a owner jumping into community life

A new Chick-Fil-A will open on Tech Road on July 15, bringing the Southern-fried fast-food joint with a cult following to East County. The other week, I sat down with Erik Amick, the store's new owner and operator whose family just moved here six weeks ago. While he came to open a restaurant, Amick's looking forward to getting involved in the community as well.

Chick-Fil-A On Tech Road
A new Chick-Fil-A will open on Tech Road in Calverton July 15.

"I've always had a desire, wherever I am, to make an impact on the people around me," says Amick over banh mi, the Vietnamese stuffed sandwich, at Saigonese Restaurant in Wheaton. Born in Michigan, he grew up in Florida, where he attended Palm Beach Atlantic University.

In 1998, fresh out of school and newly married, Amick and his wife traveled across the world, doing a mix of missionary and relief work. The couple spent time in Indonesia, Turkey, and even worked with Malian immigrants in Paris before settling in Atlanta, where they joined the church who sponsored their travels.

While there, he grew attracted to the mission of Chick-Fil-A - founded by fervent Baptist S. Truett Cathy and well-known for its policy to close on Sundays - and began a grueling, fourteen-month interview process to be selected as a store owner and operator.

The company culture "is caring, generous, giving and positive," Amick writes in a later e-mail. "One where people seek to serve each other rather than outdo each other." He quotes the company's corporate purpose: "To glorify God by being a faithful steward of all that is entrusted to us. To have a positive influence on all who come in contact with Chick-fil-A."

"My goal is to fulfill this purpose in Silver Spring," says Amick. "I can have a positive impact on not only my employees, but the people who live nearby."

When he was finally selected to open a store, Amick asked to be placed "anywhere in the Southeast," though he looked forward to following a brother-in-law who'd recently moved to the D.C. area. His new Chick-Fil-A will be one of the chain's first freestanding store without a drive-through. The chain's branch in downtown Silver Spring also lacks one, but it's located inside a larger building in an area with considerable pedestrian traffic.

Chick-Fil-A, Johns Hopkins Road, Fulton
The new store will be larger than this Chick-Fil-A on Johns Hopkins Road in Howard County, but it'll also have outdoor dining space.

"To not have a drive-through is a challenge for us," says Amick. They plan to make up for it by having a larger-than-usual dining room, with 160 seats. By comparison, the recently-built Chick-Fil-A at Route 29 and Johns Hopkins Road in Howard County has only 100 seats. The new store will also have a "substantial patio," joining other restaurants in that shopping center with outdoor seating.

Like many newcomers to East County, Amick's discovered that it's hard to describe exactly where anything is when everything has a Silver Spring address. For example, the corporate office originally called his store Chick-Fil-A at West Tech Village Center. He made a Facebook page for it, but when no one joined, he wondered if the store's name should include Silver Spring, though that would create confusion with the current Chick-Fil-A Silver Spring located on Ellsworth Drive downtown.

"Where would you say it is?" he asks me.

I live a five-minute drive from the new store, I explain. The census says I live in Calverton, though I have a neighbor who would answer "Briggs Chaney" and another, "Burtonsville." Our post office is called "Colesville," but the Super Fresh nearby advertises itself as being in "White Oak." Generally, I say I live in Silver Spring "at 29 and Cherry Hill Road," and if that doesn't clear it up, I add, "by the Target."

Given all of this, Amick later names the Facebook page "Chick-Fil-A at Tech Rd. Silver Spring," which seems clear enough.

Since moving to Cloverly in March with his wife and three young children, Amick's been reaching out to the community, visiting local churches and exploring Silver Spring and the surrounding area.

"I'm grateful to be in a place" with so much diversity, says Amick, whose listed interests on Facebook include "Traveling" and "Cote D'Ivoire." "I'd rather be in another culture than my own," he continues. "Being around people who are different than me and learning about them . . . that energizes me."

Not only that, but his family's received a warm welcome. "We went to downtown Silver Spring and brought our [eighteen-month-old] with us to eat dinner," Amick explains, "and were really amazed by how friendly people were, coming up to us on the street and talking to us."

"Atlanta's known for Southern hospitality," he says. "I felt like 'Wow, people are more friendly here than they are in Atlanta."

what's up the pike: grammar police

- In case you missed our Taste of Wheaton festival yesterday, check out this photo of awesome rapper Christylez Brown and other photos by photographer and friend of JUTP Chip Py. Meanwhile, Good Eatin' was there and declared that "Wheaton tastes good."

If you're still hungry, the Other, White Wheaton - that's Wheaton, Illinois - has its own "A Taste of Wheaton" festival next month, from June 2-6. There isn't much on their website about actual food at the event, but you'd better start booking those plane tickets now.

- Tonight, Montgomery Parks hosts a community meeting on the renovation of Woodside Park, located at Georgia and Spring. Loyal readers of this blog know that the park was basically where I grew up and is getting new play equipment; this summer, a temporary skate spot could open as well. At the meeting, planners will talk about long-term goals for the park and discuss changes that could be made. It all goes down at 7pm at the Fortress of Planning auditorium, located catty-corner to Woodside Park at 8787 Georgia Avenue.

- After that, local swing band Swingtopia returns for another round of shows at Greek Village Restaurant in Colesville. They'll be playing at 8pm and 9:30pm at New Hampshire Avenue and Randolph Road. For more info, check out Swingtopia's website.

- The Cycle Jerk (try saying that three times fast without slipping into "Circle Jerk") blog joins the chorus praising Pacci's Pizzeria at Georgia and Sligo. "There are still a few wrinkles to iron out but the pizzas were delicious. They were on par with Two Amys and slightly better than Mia's in Bethesda (which I love)," the blogger writes.

- Speaking of downtown Silver Spring: a few commenters have complained about my use of the term "Downtown Silver Spring" to refer to the entire business district. That is, they suggest I shouldn't capitalize the "D" when referring to, say, something at Georgia and Bonifant because capital-D "Downtown Silver Spring" refers to the redeveloped area at Georgia and Ellsworth. Back in the day, JUTP referred to that as the "Downtown Silver Spring complex," but after a while it slipped out of use.

Do you care? Does it confuse you when I say "Downtown Silver Spring" instead of "downtown Silver Spring"? I'd like to know.

Friday, May 14, 2010

what's up the pike: mystery time

'Opening in 10 Days'
What's this sign say? And what's in store for those of you who enjoy chicken sandwiches? We'll have the answer for you on Monday, but in the meantime:

- The Post is having a poll of readers' favorite ethnic restaurants! Naturally, I couldn't go without asking you to vote for your favorite East County eats (except in the Chinese category, where Michael's Noodles on Darnestown Road in Rockville is really the only option. Note that their ranking of Peruvian places resembles our largely-abandoned Great Peruvian Taste Test, with the top two going to El Pollo Rico and Crisp & Juicy as of last night.

- If you haven't heard already, this Sunday is the Taste of Wheaton festival, featuring fifteen restaurants and thirty-five other businesses and organizations (PDF!). If you're not interested in experimenting with hole-in-the-wall joints like Dunkin' Donuts, IHOP and Starbucks, you can try food from other Wheaton favorites like the newly-reopened Hollywood East Café and Saigonese Restaurant. The festival runs from 11am to 6pm in Lot 13, located at Grandview Avenue and Reedie Drive.

- Jerry McCoy from the Historical Society decided to end his blog Silver Spring: Then and Again, but didn't give a reason why.

It's equally disappointing that he also took down all of the posts he wrote over the past several years, including one I was about to link to saying the signs were now up at Fire Station 1, the new restaurant/brewpub opening Memorial Day weekend in the old fire station (duh) at Georgia and Silver Spring avenues. "Hopefully this will be enough of a draw to finally wean the public off of Ellsworth Drive and introduce the rest of downtown Silver Spring to a wider audience," he writes.

But wait, there's more:

- People are not happy about what's going inside the new Silver Spring Civic Building.

- There's a sign on the closed Wheaton Safeway, as well, meaning its demolition and eventual return as a Social Safeway with fourteen floors of apartments above is nigh.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

what's up the pike: beer and wine and sprouts

- Reader Cilla pointed us to these historic photos of Wheaton, located on the website of Elbe's Beer and Wine, which first opened at the corner of University Boulevard West and Grandview Avenue in 1951. Those of us who don't qualify as Baby Boomers probably won't recognize photos showing Elbe's 1950's-era, non-alcohol based selection of celery and brussels sprouts or a cute little roadhouse called the Wheaton Inn, currently the site of El Pollo Rico.

- Meanwhile, there's a growing wish list for Wheaton Plaza at What's Up, Wheaton? (We're lending them our apostrophe and comma because their punctuation marks are still on order.) "The nature of how Wheaton grows is very much tied to what happens in the mall," they write. (Anyone who's afraid of Wheaton becoming Silver Spring might want to get out now: they're already catching up to us in blogging.)

- A fire broke out at the unfinished Silver Spring Transit Center yesterday afternoon around 5:30pm. The Silver Spring Sprinkles and Always Fishing blogs report that smoke was visible and that a fire truck and ambulance came to the scene, but we've no word yet on if anyone was injured.

- Tomorrow's a busy day at Planning Place: the Board takes up a proposal (PDF!) to build a controversial ezStorage self-storage facility on Route 198 in Burtonsville (pictured), followed by a zoning change that would allow a gas station alongside a new Costco at Wheaton Plaza. For more info, check out their agenda online.

- Finally: we forgot to mention that yesterday was the birthday of Planning director Rollin Stanley, who I long ago professed my planner-crush on. Happy birthday!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

chelsea school's leaving silver spring, but they're not closing

chelsea school site
Though the Chelsea School is moving from Downtown Silver Spring, they won't be closing altogether, says head Tony Messina. With most of their students in the District and Prince George's County, the school will move to those jurisdictions over the next several years. "Yes, the property is being sold, but we are moving to two other campuses," writes Messina in an e-mail to JUTP.

Last week, JUTP wrote about a proposal to build new homes on Chelsea's five-acre campus on Pershing Drive, which the school's sold to Bethesda-based developer EYA. Though we reported that representatives from EYA and the school have both met with the nearby Seven Oaks-Evanswood Civic Association, the Chelsea School has in fact not spoken to the community, Messina says.

"The Board of Governors has not released an official statement as of yet," he writes.

In a comment left last Wednesday, Messina further explained the school's plans:

Dear Chelsea School Community,

The Chelsea School Board of Governors has spent the past year and a half working on the sale of the Chelsea School campus in Silver Spring, Maryland. We are happy to announce that we have signed a letter-of-agreement with the EYA Development Corporation for the sale of our property. We will not be leaving this property for at least twenty-seven months and are scheduled to depart Silver Spring in August of 2012.

There are specific benchmarks that need to be met before closing this campus. If timelines are adjusted or any other disruption occurs which interferes with the sale of the school, we will inform the community immediately. It is our goal to make this process as transparent as possible and to involve our parents and staff in important committee work as it unfolds over the next twenty-seven months.

We see the sale of our school property as very positive; it allows us to grow our program and it ensures long-term financial stability. The decision not to build a permanent home in Silver Spring was based on strong enrollment trends. It is financially beneficial to work closely with the two jurisdictions that fund the majority of our students: Prince George’s County and the District of Columbia.

To this end, we are looking at both of these geographic areas to be our new home, with our long-term goal to be in both locations. It is important to note that we will continue to welcome and recruit private-pay families and students funded by all school systems.

We will continue provide a superior program model that meets the needs of students with language-based learning challenges. The integrity of our program model is paramount and will be the guiding force behind all decisions for the future. While we are eventually moving to a new location, we will not change who we are and what you have come to know and love about our organization. We appreciate your continued kind words and unwavering support.

Best regards,

Tony Messina, Head of School

Monday, May 10, 2010

rumors of my accomplishments have been greatly exaggerated

Skaters Getting Busted
Yesterday was Mother's Day, and while hopefully y'all paid homage to your mothers, I wanted to say something about somebody else's mother, namely Sk8ter Mom.

My mother and Sk8ter Mom are roughly the same age. While my mother complains about walking more than a couple of blocks, Sk8ter Mom has spent the past year and a half learning how to skate, meeting the kids who skate in downtown Silver Spring and, in the process, becoming the community's leading advocate for skating.

The kids who skate in Silver Spring are emblematic of the area's changing demographics. Many of them are minorities. Some come from disadvantaged families. And in an area where a two-bedroom apartment can rent for $2,900 a month, many of them live with their families well outside of Downtown. They come from White Oak, Long Branch, Langley Park and beyond. And, as Sk8ter Mom points out, they feel skateboarding isn't just a way to pass the time:

"I've talked to quite a few who rarely, if ever, attended summer camps or other programs outside of school. I've talked to many kids who feel like skateboarding has saved their lives, and that if it weren't for skating, their lives would have taken a different turn. This is why so many of our kids are so passionate about skating. And this is why we should not only allow kids to skate — but encourage them to."

Despite this, these kids are repeatedly hassled by shopkeepers, security guards and even police officers in Silver Spring, chased out of spaces that weren't designed for skating but wouldn't get used otherwise. It's easy to write them off because of the way they dress or look or act, which makes them one of the least-represented communities in Silver Spring.

That's why someone like Sk8ter Mom has stepped in to advocate for them. She isn't just a well-meaning adult - she skates with them, making her a sort of liaison between them and the powers-that-be who won't listen to someone under 30.

I've written about skating issues a few times in the past year. But I wouldn't have met a single one of the kids who skates in Downtown Silver Spring, nor would I have learned about Skaters for Public Skateparks without talking to Sk8ter Mom or reading her blog, Silver Spring Skateboarding.

The tireless Montgomery County planners who write The Straight Line gave me credit for "connecting the Silver Spring skater kids to the planning process" after last month's blogger panel discussion - but in fact, it was Sk8ter Mom who connected ME to the planning process. (Hopefully, they're already correcting this.)

I hope that if I've done anything, it's been connecting You, The Reader to the skater community in Silver Spring by raising awareness of the issues at hand. I haven't brought these kids to the table. But hopefully, I'm encouraging you to come to the table as well.

what's up the pike: odds and ends

Odds and Ends, Selim Road
- Tomorrow, give your opinion on how we should inaugurate the Silver Spring Civic Building, opening less than two months from now on July 8. "Come ready to share what you'd like to see for the opening; and come ready to offer how you'd like to help," writes Reemberto Rodriguez, director of the Silver Spring Regional Services Center, which will operate the new complex. The meeting's at 7pm in the Round House Theatre Educational Center, located on the first floor of the Wayne Avenue Garage at Wayne and Georgia.

- We Love DC looks at Silver Spring through the eyes of the bloggers that love it, namely myself and Karl from Silver Spring, Singular. It's a little confusing that the post says it'll "focus on the urban area of Silver Spring around the Metro station" but mentions that the "and the ICC is slated to connect with the area as well," despite being many, many miles away from Downtown. I do, however, enjoy the lack of comments calling Silver Spring "sterile" or whatever.

And in Asian food news:

- Lunching in the DMV eats Korean at Woomi Garden in Wheaton and notes that if you speak Korean, you'll get better service. "My bf ordered in English, then as we were leaving he said thank you and bye in Korean, and our waitress told us if he had spoken in Korean earlier, we would have had better care," writes blogger Dskco.

- Meanwhile, Good Eatin' lists all the Chinese places in Wheaton he knows, though he leaves out Full Key. Like Woomi Garden, this place is so authentic that you'll get rewarded for speaking the language (in this case, Cantonese). Americans like me, on the other hand, might want to avoid stopping by at busy times, because you probably won't get seated. (This has happened to me.)

- Wheaton Calling tries banh mi - a Vietnamese sub sandwich with meats and veggies served in a French baguette - at Saigonese Restaurant on Grandview Avenue in Wheaton, by far the only banh mi worth eating in the area. (No lie: I have been there TWICE in the past week.)

Friday, May 7, 2010

what's up the pike: after the rain

After The Rain In Wheaton
- This weekend is the first-annual Takoma Park/Silver Spring Experimental Film Festival, bringing "innovative, diverse and unique" films produced locally and around the world to the Pyramid Atlantic Art Center. Programs start at 7:30pm tonight and continue from 12pm to 8pm tomorrow. For a schedule, check out the festival's website. All showings are free and can be found at Pyramid Atlantic, 8230 Georgia Avenue at Ripley Street.

- And if that's not enough for you, the youth media collective Gandhi Brigade hosts its third-annual Express Yourself! Youth Media Festival, with a pop-up art gallery, live performances, a four-hour film competition, and an "awards screening of the best youth-produced media in the area," says their website. The free event runs from 3 to 8:30pm tomorrow in venues throughout Downtown Silver Spring.

- Kensington Arts Theatre's production of the musical Violet (which we reviewed earlier this week continues its four-week run this Friday at 8pm, with additional performances on May 8, 14, 15, 21 and 22 at 8pm and on May 9 and 16 at 3pm. As always, you can find them in the Kensington Town Hall, located at 3710 Mitchell Street in Kensington. For more info and to buy tickets, check out

- Looking for a pet? Appalachian Great Pyrenees Rescue, a Richmond-based volunteer group that finds homes specifically for Great Pyrenees dogs, is having an adoption event from 12 to 4pm Sunday at Silver Plaza (also known as "the place with the fountain on Ellsworth Drive"). For more info, visit them on Facebook or at their website.


- The Wheaton blogs (how nice is it to say we've got THREE of them now?) are not very happy with the latest developments in the plan to bring Costco to Wheaton Plaza.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

waiting for that new streetcar smell

DC Streetcar Showcase (2)
Regular readers shouldn't be surprised that I took some time yesterday to visit the D.C. Streetcar Showcase, going on through this Saturday at the corner of 9th & H Streets NW near Gallery Place. The District Department of Transportation is embarking on an ambitious, ten-year plan to build 37 miles of streetcar lines across the city - and to gin up support for the project, they're putting one of their recently-purchased streetcars on display for all to come and see (and smell).

And of course, all of my fellow geeky urban planning bloggers came out as well, cameras in tow.

Much as I love the National Capital Trolley Museum right here in East County, it's a bummer that we aren't able to ride one in real life, especially after seeing how awesome and efficient they are in cities like Portland, San Francisco and Philadelphia, where I will ride the streetcar all day long when I move there.

While the plan is confined to the city limits for now, I'm hoping that we'll see the Georgia Avenue streetcar line continued to Silver Spring. That's where they once ran many, many decades ago and first kick-started the development of what we now call Downtown Silver Spring. In the future, it'll give East County residents a new way into the city and to great shopping, dining and entertainment destinations that are kind of hard to reach from the Red Line, like Petworth, Columbia Heights and on U Street.

We won't see any streetcars running in D.C. until 2012 at the earliest, but in the meantime, check out this photoset. And you can visit the Streetcar Showcase yourself at the corner of 9th & H NW near the Gallery Place Metro station.

finding identity and a love triangle in kensington arts theatre's violet

Kensington Arts Theatre closes out its 2009-2010 season on a somewhat somber note with Violet, a musical set in the Civil Rights-era South. Despite grappling with issues of race, identity, and faith, KAT's cast rises to the challenge.

In Violet, the title character (Autumn Seavey) grows up "on the side of a mountain" in rural North Carolina. At thirteen, her face is disfigured by her father in a wood-chopping accident. Now grown, Violet boards a bus to Oklahoma to meet a televangelist she's convinced can heal her scars.

Along the way, she meets soldiers Monty (Eric Minor) and Flick (Darius Epps), who both develop feelings for her. As they travel across the South, Violet falls for womanizing Monty and but ignores Flick, insisting that his black skin makes him less attractive than she is.

The musical jumps between Violet's current journey and her pained childhood, which often play out in the same scene. In "The Luck of the Draw," Violet, Monty and Flick play poker while downstage Young Violet (Allie Bannigan) learns the game from her father (Patrick McMahan).

KAT's production relies on a minimal but flexible set, using movable benches and other pieces to re-create everything from a Greyhound bus to a Memphis roadhouse. Having furniture on wheels makes for some exciting choreography, as in opening song "On My Way," in which Violet and her fellow passengers dance with bus benches.

As always, the vocals are crisp and clear. I especially enjoyed the harmonies between Violet and her thirteen-year-old self, who appear frequently together, a metaphor for Violet's inability to heal emotionally from her accident. And again, I'm left wanting to hear more of ensemble member Felicia Akunwafor, whose powerful voice I was first introduced to in KAT's Rent.

But even the ensemble gets equal billing in Violet, where six of the nine cast members play multiple parts, sometimes changing costumes and characters within the same scene. Liz Weber was especially hilarious as a sanctimonious old lady and, later on, as a loud bus driver.

Like many of KAT's productions, Violet deals with many adult themes and there is some brief sexual activity and partial nudity. Of course, that certainly didn't stop the group of high-school girls sitting in front of me, and it shouldn't stop you from making the trip to Kensington to support your community theatre.

Violet continues its four-week run this Friday at 8pm, with additional performances on May 8, 14, 15, 21 and 22 at 8pm and on May 9 and 16 at 3pm. As always, you can find them in the Kensington Town Hall, located at 3710 Mitchell Street in Kensington. For more info and to buy tickets, check out

Cast photo by Ernie Achenbach for KAT.