Downtown Silver Spring, December 21, 2007.
Downtown Silver Spring, September 5, 2009.
Downtown Silver Spring, December 1, 2012.
At the end of my first semester of college at the University of Maryland, I took the Metro back to Silver Spring to hang out with a friend from high school. We walked around downtown, visiting the record store, having coffee at Mayorga, and taking funny pictures of the "Silver SprUng" signs that were everywhere at the time.
We eventually ended up walking on Burlington Avenue, a one-block-long street that climbs over the Red Line tracks.
Even though it's part of a busy state highway, I'd never really noticed this street before. In a car going 35 miles an hour, there isn't much time to notice it. As a result, for the first time in my entire life, I beheld this sweeping view of downtown Silver Spring: garages and graffiti; office towers and cranes.
"Wow, it almost looks like a city," I joked.
"It IS a city," she replied.
Have you ever had an idea that didn't seem to make sense until someone else said it? That's how I felt then. Even if Silver Spring was on the wrong side of the city line, people who didn't spend all of their time thinking about planning stuff like I did still perceived it as a city, which meant I could too and not feel crazy.
(This line of thinking also informs my acceptance of the theory that Silver Spring takes up like half of Montgomery County, which is controversial but was generally accepted by everyone I grew up with.)
My friend and I eventually fell out of touch, but I kept coming back to the Burlington Avenue bridge. Much of the view is the same: the fences, the line of body shops along Auto Row, the bright red "SMASH INHIBITIONS" tag along the train tracks that persists alongside layers of new graffiti. But downtown Silver Spring has grown up around it, and there's at least one new building every time I come back.
Of course, we're not talking about a transformation on the scale of Dubai, where the city seems as if it sprouted overnight. But if I compared photos from my parents' cul-de-sac a few miles away in 2005 and in 2012, they'd probably look the same, which makes the transformation of downtown Silver Spring even more amazing.
Change may be hard to stop, but it's also spiky, occurring in fits and starts and in some places more than others. That's definitely a blessing to those people who'd prefer not to live in a place like downtown Silver Spring, and it's great that change and stability can coexist so close together.
I look forward to watching the continued growth and evolution of downtown Silver Spring. Each time I come back to Burlington Avenue, Silver Spring looks more and more like a city, and I've never been prouder to call it my hometown.