Greater Greater Washington

Introducing the Flower Theatre Project

For years, the Flower Theatre in Silver Spring's Long Branch neighborhood has sat empty. How can we bring it back to life?


The Flower Theatre today. Photo from Google Street View.

I'd like to introduce the Flower Theatre Project, which seeks to find a socially and economically sustainable way to restore the Flower Theatre as an anchor for the Long Branch community and a catalyst for investment and revitalization.

In August, a group of residents, businesspeople, community organizers, planners, architects and real estate professionals came together at Fenton Street Market for a charrette, or idea-generating workshop, to brainstorm ways it could be brought back to life. We got a lot of great ideas and a clear message from the community that this space can't sit idle anymore.

Since then, we've done a thorough demographic analysis of the neighborhood, and looked at past and ongoing planning efforts in Long Branch to see what others have learned. We've explored the feasibility of each of the concepts proposed at the charrette, looking at everything from parking requirements to local competition to the difficulty of adapting a 60-year-old Art Deco movie theatre. The results of our research can be found in this 17-page report titled "Back in Bloom: Starting a Conversation about Revitalizing the Flower Theatre."

The Flower Theatre Project is still in its infancy. Our next step is to reach out to local groups and organizations, like the Long Branch Business League, to build community support for our goals. We also seek to begin a conversation with the owner, Harvey Property Management of Bethesda, in the hopes of finding a use for this space that benefits them as well as the neighborhood.

Bringing the Flower Theatre back to life is one way we can make Long Branch a stronger, safer, more prosperous community. I hope you'll join us. If you're interested in helping out or have any questions, shoot me an email at danreed@ggwash.org.

A planner and architect by training, Dan Reed also writes his own blog, Just Up the Pike, and serves as the Land Use Chair for the Action Committee for Transit. He lives in downtown Silver Spring. 

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I see that your report names the parties involved in its preparation, but doesn't identify them (affiliations and interests). As Long Branch is my neighborhood I'm already suspicious of outsider efforts to "improve" it (such as wasting money on unnecessary new sidewalks along Arliss St.) and the lack of attention to gentrifying effects of the Purple Line on the large immigrant population of this neighborhood. Frankly, I want to know who you all think you are.

by drbubbles on Sep 21, 2012 11:29 am • linkreport

@drbubbles

Scroll up: "In August, a group of residents, businesspeople, community organizers, planners, architects and real estate professionals came together at Fenton Street Market for a charrette, or idea-generating workshop, to brainstorm ways it could be brought back to life."

I personally don't live in Long Branch, but I've lived in Silver Spring for most of my life. Most of the folks who came to the charrette - and are continuing to be involved - live or work in the community. I couldn't in good conscience do this without them.

by dan reed! on Sep 21, 2012 11:38 am • linkreport

From a former ASM at the Silver Spring Theatre I wish this effort luck.

If we can and it makes sense save all area theatres / theaters in the area! (I can't remember the name of the old theatre that caught fire in Silver Spring in late 2009.... Was it the Lee?)

@Dan: Not sure if this would be helpful but the folks at the Avalon Theatre Project in Chevy Chase, DC are a good example of how to get this done.

by John Muller on Sep 21, 2012 12:04 pm • linkreport

Good luck Dan, I would suggest that for anyone suspicious about motives or whatever simply attend the Charette and see who is there and what is suggested.

Plus unless I'm mistaken a Charette is pretty much a publicly organized and attended brainstorming session so you could attend and if you have a specific idea try and get people to see what is entailed in your idea.

by drumz on Sep 21, 2012 1:41 pm • linkreport

and the lack of attention to gentrifying effects of the Purple Line on the large immigrant population of this neighborhood

The Purple Line doesn't have funding from the Federal Goverment yet so exactly what gentrifying effects exactly are you speaking of? Which apartment complexes are being torn down and replaced? And if not that, which ones are compeltely repositioning themselves in the market through complete renovation and much higher rents? That's gentrification so please explain where you have seen it? (hint: it's not there).

by LongBrancher on Sep 21, 2012 3:28 pm • linkreport

I'm glad to hear that folks are thinking about this. However, let's try to make sure this is a private sector project. The government till is pretty low.

by Nancy Floreen on Sep 22, 2012 7:23 am • linkreport

Dan - The Silver Spring Citizens Advisory Board is prepared to assist with this community dialogue and broaden the search for project partners.

by Evan Glass on Sep 22, 2012 8:38 am • linkreport

Just because the charette is open to the public and gets stakeholder orgs , it doesn't mean that it actually reflects the wishes of the community. Having been through various exercises like this, the role of middle class do-gooders often constitutes as much of a barrier to participation as a facilitator.

by Rich on Sep 23, 2012 10:22 am • linkreport

Chiming in late, but I'm involved in this project with Dan - I live two blocks from the Flower Theatre, so I think I qualify as a local! I'd like to second Dan's comment that most of the charrette participants were other people who live or work (or both) in Long Branch.
We definitely want broad participation in this effort, and aren't seeking to impose a narrow definition of "improvements" on the community. I am part of the community, and I'd love for the theatre to find a new use with wide appeal.

by Amanda Hurley on Sep 24, 2012 2:55 pm • linkreport

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