Greater Greater Washington

Rebuild of the Blairs will turn Silver Spring parking into parks

With 1400 apartments, a strip mall and an office building around a huge parking lot, the Blairs are a suburban relic in the middle of downtown Silver Spring. Over the next 15 to 20 years, it could become a city in its own right, with new housing, commercial space, and a network of new streets and parks.


The Blairs today. Photo by the author.

The Rockville-based Tower Companies showed me their long-term plan for the redevelopment of the 1960's-era 27-acre complex bounded by Colesville Road, East-West Highway, Blair Mill Road and Eastern Avenue on Wednesday before presenting it to the community that evening at the Silver Spring Civic Building.

The project, which could cost $625 million, would double the amount of housing and triple the amount of commercial, which is already allowed under current zoning. The shopping center, office building, and older apartment buildings would be replaced with acres of new parks, courtyards, and buildings with green roofs.

Canadian architect Bing Thom, who designed the new Arena Stage in Southwest DC, developed the plan with landscape architect Alan Ward of Boston-based Sasaki Associates, who designed Reston Town Center. "As an architect, it's such a joy to work with [Tower]," says Thom. "Here's a private property owner that says 'We want everyone to walk through our property!'"

Plan proposes new street grid, network of parks


Site plan of the proposed Blairs Master Plan. All images courtesy of Sasaki Associates.

Thom describes the Blairs Master Plan as a "transition from suburban to semi-urban to urban." The tallest buildings, located closer to East-West Highway and the Silver Spring Metro station, would reach 200 feet in height, stepping down to 140 feet and then 40-foot tall townhouses across from the single-family homes on Eastern Avenue.

Each of the 10 new apartment, office and hotel towers sits atop a podium of structured parking, which is capped by a private courtyard or roof deck and wrapped by either townhouses with ground-floor entrances or ground-floor retail. In Vancouver, where Thom is based, this type of building is called a "point tower."

Not only do the townhouses lend the high-rises a more human scale, but they provide a type of housing that isn't very common in downtown Silver Spring. "It's a house in the city," says Thom. "For young families and households with pets, they'll be very popular."

A new street grid with extensions of Draper Lane and Portal Drive NW, new streets, and pedestrian passages, breaks up the existing superblock. The new streets tie the site into the surrounding community and make circulation easier, but are designed to discourage through traffic. Meanwhile, a series of open spaces totaling over 4 acres creates a connection between the Silver Spring Metro station and Rock Creek Park.

"What was once one block is now more permeable," says Ward. "We worked as a team to shape the blocks and make this interesting network of public spaces."

Draper, which exists today as a parking ramp, will become a real street with sidewalks and bike lanes. It divides the site, which has a 25-foot drop between the east and west sides, into what Thom calls the "upper and lower escarpment."


Blair Park, the largest park in a four-acre network.

The "upper escarpment," closer to East-West Highway, replaces the existing shopping center and the office building on Colesville Road with a "lively," mixed-use district with shops, offices, a hotel and about 700 new apartments. It's centered on Blair Park, a one-acre, oval-shaped park oriented to guide people to and from the Metro. Ward envisions it as a major gathering space that can host festivals and concerts, but can still feel comfortable for everyday activities.

Surrounding the park are shops, a new grocery store, and restaurants with outdoor seating. It's lined by a street that is "designed for pedestrians, but cars happen to go through it," says Ward.

Closer to Eastern Avenue is the "lower escarpment," with a more "relaxed, residential" character. Blair Towers, 257 apartments in 4 mid-rise buildings constructed in 1959, would be replaced by roughly 1000 apartments and townhomes in four new blocks. They'll be allowed to remain until their leases expire throughout the next year, though the Tower Companies says they'll allow residents to move to vacant apartments elsewhere in the complex and help pay their moving costs.


Montgomery Square would have a seating area and "imagination playground."

Another open space, called Terrace Park, provides a transition between the upper and lower escarpments with a gentle sloping lawn criss-crossed by ramps and a water feature that collects and recycles rainwater. At the bottom is Montgomery Square, which has outdoor seating and a children's "imagination playground." Throughout the lower escarpment are a series of smaller pocket parks leading to Eastern Avenue and Rock Creek Park, including a "fitness park" or outdoor gym, and two dog parks.

When finished, there would be 2,800 apartments and townhomes, 1,700 of which would be new; 200,000 square feet of office space; 125,000 square feet of retail space, including a new grocery store; and a 125-room hotel. With the exception of Blair Towers, all of the other apartments in the complex, which were either recently renovated or newly built to LEED standards, would remain.

Murn says he hopes to file a project plan with the Montgomery County Planning Department in March and anticipates that the entire approval process should take between 16 and 18 months. If everything goes as scheduled, work on the lower escarpment would begin in the fall of 2014 and occur in 4 phases. Later, the shopping center and office building would be redeveloped in 3 additional phases. Since Giant's lease doesn't end until 2024, it may take 15 to 20 years for the entire project to be completed.

Residents concerned about parking, open space and displacement


A mews, or pedestrian passage lined with townhouses.

Reaction to the project at Wednesday's presentation was generally positive, though several concerns were raised.

Residents of Shepherd Park, located across from the Blairs in the District, say the redevelopment will exacerbate an existing parking shortage. The Blairs Master Plan proposes 3300 parking spaces, nearly twice what's there today.

Ed Murn, director of development for the Tower Companies, says he intentionally "overparked" the site, providing more parking than tenants are likely to use. This may be due to the county's zoning requirements, or demands from retailers.

It's likely that some parking will go unused. The Blairs are across the street from one of the region's largest transit hubs and a short walk to major employers and shopping and should attract people who don't want or need to drive. Most people living in downtown Silver Spring already get around by foot, bike or transit. Structured parking is really expensive to build, especially if it won't be used. If it's possible to reduce the amount of parking on site, the developers should go for it.

Blair Towers tenants say they're worried about displacement and not being able to find affordable housing in the area. Rents continue to rise in Silver Spring despite an apartment building boom, though low vacancy rates suggest there isn't enough housing to meet demand.

As many as 210 apartments will be set aside as Moderately Priced Dwelling Units for low-income households. Murn argued that adding new housing while keeping some of the old will provide more affordable options. "I'm gonna have older buildings at lower price points than the newer buildings at higher price points," he says.


Private ownership of public spaces allows programming like this performance depicted here, but are they truly public?

There's also a growing desire for open space in the area, raising the question of how public the Blairs' open spaces will be, since they are all privately owned. In 2007, Montgomery County determined that Ellsworth Drive, which was leased to a private developer, was a public forum where people have the right to free speech.

Murn stresses that the public spaces will be "open and inviting," though he didn't say what restrictions may be placed on them. "Without private ownership, it's impossible for Tower Companies to provide programming our tenants and neighbors would want," says Murn, adding, "The activity doesn't come without the public."

The Blairs Master Plan will breathe new life into a section of downtown Silver Spring that's seen a lot of residential and office development but little else. Even residents who were worried about the project had good things to say about it and praised the detail of the developer and design team's presentation. Many asked for them to hold more community meetings so others could learn about it and offer input.

"This project is so large and so important to the future of Silver Spring that it demands more public comment," says Evan Glass, chair of the Silver Spring Citizens Advisory Board. "An open process is usually a good process."

Check out this slideshow with detailed images of the Blairs Master Plan.

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Dan Reed is an urban planner at Nelson\Nygaard. He 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. All opinions are his own. 

Comments

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Are there any plans for playgrounds for kids? Other planning ideas for making the area well designed for families with kids? I'd love to hear your insights.

by MS on Feb 15, 2013 1:41 pm • linkreport

@MS: Dan specifically mentions an "imagination playground."

What else would you suggest to make things better for families with kids? One thing I've been thinking about is how it would be nice to have more quality daycare options near the SS metro station, which would make it much easier for my wife and I to pick up/drop off a child on the way to and from work. It seems that there are a couple facilities now, but they're focused on children of certain employers. Is this something where it might be worth some encouragement from local government for these business to choose sites with great walking and transit accessibility?

by Gray Spring on Feb 15, 2013 1:55 pm • linkreport

I can't seem to tell from the map but it sounded like with Draper drive becoming a "real road" that you could use it to get between Blair Mill and Colesville but on the map there is a section covered by a parking garage. Was it clear whether its just two entrances to said garage or does it go through?

by drumz on Feb 15, 2013 1:57 pm • linkreport

Sounds great and really a no brainer given the location next to the metro and the potential purple line routing nearby.

by Alan B. on Feb 15, 2013 2:10 pm • linkreport

What I dont understand about many projects when there is room; why not keep the stores open until the new ones are done; instead of closing a store and making people travel to wherever to find another location.

The only time I dont remember that happening was when the Safeway in SE DC off of 25th Street moved over to a shopping center 2 blocks away it on Alabama Ave the time closed was minimal

by kk on Feb 15, 2013 2:15 pm • linkreport

I'm really excited for this proposal, and I hope people understand how good this would be for the area, even for people from Shepherd Park. A strong and safe South Silver Spring makes their houses more desirable.

I would encourage people to not get too wrapped up in what has been shown so far. We are talking about something that may not be completed until upwards of 2045. All the developer and architect can do is provide a space. As to which employers actually fill theses spaces, well that is to be decided. And what has been shown so far is very preliminary.

So, what can we do? We can get involved in this process, help speed it along by encouraging MoCo to be expedient and work to make sure that the green spaces are what the area needs. The term green space is incredibly vague (field for sports, wooded area, bench and grass, etc.) and residents should think hard about what kinds of activities they would like.

This is a great opportunity to bring more people, businesses and vitality to South Silver Spring. I'm excited about this project, and want to work with the developer to make sure that the build something that makes sense for the area long term.

Will there be retail that fronts East-West Highway? Will there be sidewalk improvements on that side? What kind of green space will we have? Will we have freedom of speech in this areas? These are questions I have, and I know that by working with the developer I'll have a far greater chance of getting these addressed.

by Patrick Thornton on Feb 15, 2013 2:30 pm • linkreport

@drumz

Yes, a portion of Draper Lane will go through the parking garage. This wasn't really discussed during either of the meetings I was at on Wednesday, but it is a real issue that deserves a further look. If the amount of parking on site is reduced, maybe it wouldn't be necessary.

by dan reed! on Feb 15, 2013 2:40 pm • linkreport

@dan reed!: I understand that this project would remove a surface parking lot, but given that the proposal includes 3300 parking spaces, is it really accurate to say that this turns parking into something else? It sounds more like a proposal to turn parking into some parks and a lot more parking.

by Gray Spring on Feb 15, 2013 2:52 pm • linkreport

Is that parking garage exclusive for residents? I can't really think of a reason to keep it there if that much underground parking is proposed?

by Steve on Feb 15, 2013 2:55 pm • linkreport

I can understand the developers desires to not create a lot of through vehicle traffic on their site, however with this much density and this big of a project, does it not make sense to have not only Draper Lane but another through road 90 degrees to Draper that connects Eastern Ave to E/W Highway? I don't find streets to the be worst neighbors to walk along, they can still be well landscaped, protect pedestrians with on street parking, and i'd think as a business they provide more exposure. I remember when downtown Salisbury closed down their main street to traffic and made it a pedestrian plaza, the businesses struggled, and the city ended up reopening the street. Patrick brings up a good point, this is very preliminary, and will likely be changed by the Planning department, and further changed over time as the developer works on different phases of the project. Whats shown is certainly an improvement, but I'd think we should go for what's best, not just what is better.

by Gull on Feb 15, 2013 3:22 pm • linkreport

I agree this is a tremendous project and the site plan is deffinatly encouraging. They ought to enhance the "village" atmosphere tightening up some of the public spaces which right now, allthough promising, seem to bleed a little too much into eachother. As for stitching it into the area, agree with Gull on the need for a 90 degree road to Draper. I'm guessing the grade along with the desire to create a clear boundry between the office/retail and residential components was a factor, but the promising pedestrian village plan could be enhanced with allowing more real roads with sidewalks to link the east and west portion of the site.

As for the architecture, it's a pet peev of mine that the developers say the drawings show "place holders" and that they are not representative. They always say that to deflect comments on what might be the most character indusing element (along with the site plan) only to have it baked into the cake when enough time has passed. I might give them a pass on this note except for the fact that the examples of the architect's previous work shown to illustrate the feel looked exactly like what was shown in the renderings, leeding me to believe what you see is approximatly what you get. The problem with this is the corporate look to everything, a lot of green drapped on them, but we still have a winter around these parts.

Another possible problem is the townhouse blocks with the 14-20 story residential towers poking out from each block. It's not towers in a park but rather towers in a rowhouse neighborhood, aka, the Vancouver model, which incidentally is where the architect hails from (I believe). Eitherway, it makes for a disjointed scale. They should try eavening out the massing in a 6-9 story range with varying cornice heights for visual diversity without giving up on the density, which I love.

However it works out though, it will be a huge win for Silver Spring and the region. I want to second what Patrick Thorton said about MC getting on the stick with speedier approvals. Let's get these balls rolling, the sooner the better.

by Thayer-D on Feb 15, 2013 4:50 pm • linkreport

It looks like E-W Highway is somewhat neglected. It's dead much of the day and isn't a very good pedestrian environment. Towers stepping down to townhouses sounds a bit like Lafayette Park in Detroit, which has more parkland and also more surface parking if I recall correctly.

by Rich on Feb 15, 2013 5:25 pm • linkreport

When someone loves a parking ramp for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves it, then it becomes a Real street.

by David C on Feb 15, 2013 6:28 pm • linkreport

I have to concur with Thayer-D here. If the scale of the towers were kept to 6-9 stories, they might be bearable, but I find the pin towers shown in the Vancouver link to be hideous and terribly out of scale with their surroundings.

by Craig on Feb 15, 2013 10:35 pm • linkreport

The painting of Montgomery Square looks horrible from a biking perspective. There's no way that woman is going to safely negotiate her way through the path ahead of her without dismounting.

by Kolohe on Feb 16, 2013 11:05 am • linkreport

This is a fine plan - for 1964! The density and mix of uses is admirable, but the urban design is more suburban office park than real urbanism - inward looking and unconnected from its neighborhood. It is virtually at Metro and yet it is "over-parked." There are no real streets, just access drives to parking lots and drop-offs for office buildings. Is there a reason for anyone to be there other than those who live or work in the buildings or shop at the Giant? Sure, its pretty, as was the architecture of the SW Urban Renewal plans.

by DCRon on Feb 16, 2013 11:21 am • linkreport

Nice write up. This is a really promising development and it's somewhat disappointing that it'll take two decades to reach full build out. Hopefully Tower Cos. don't run into the same problems Home Properties did with the similar, but smaller, Falkland North development.

The only issue I have is the townhomes. I understand that when you plan to construct nearly 2,000 residential units you wanna mix it up to get the most bang for your $, but townhomes/rowhomes don't fit in well in downtown Silver Spring. The townhomes, for instance, below the 13-story Portico (to the NW of McDonald's) look really out of place. It would be better if the Blairs townhomes were grouped together rather than built adjacent to each hi-rise. In DC rowhomes are (more or less) in residential neighborhoods, and not sandwiched between high-rise office buildings in Downtown.

As for the green space, I feel that they did a good job, although it would have been nicer if some of the smaller parks were combined to create larger ones.

by King Terrapin on Feb 16, 2013 11:29 am • linkreport

@Rich, DCRon

The frontages on East-West Highway and Colesville Road wasn't discussed a lot at either of the meetings on Wednesday, but I don't think it's being entirely neglected.

Given, there are less-than-great urban buildings on both streets (Blair Towns and Blair East) which aren't going anywhere, if you look at the site plan in detail, you can see a drop-off for the hotel and office building on East-West Highway and an apartment building on Colesville, along with improved sidewalk treatments. Not spectacular, but better than what's there today (a blank wall), and could be improved with further discussion.

@King Terrapin

I agree that the townhouses in Cameron Hill (behind the Portico) look out of place, but what's being proposed here will be more integrated with the larger building: not a townhouse next to a high-rise (which done right can be quite nice), but a shorter wing of a taller building that happens to be set up as a row of townhouses, like these guys in Portland.

Also, the tallest apartment towers here will be about 14-20 floors, so they aren't as tall as the Vancouver style buildings, which can go up to 60 floors.

by dan reed! on Feb 16, 2013 12:09 pm • linkreport

@dan reed,
Describing a townhouse block with a highrise in it as a shorter wing of a larger building might be a bit misleading. Usually, wings bear some proportional relationship to the main body, like a wing of the Capitol building to the central domed section. Here a three story wing stretching out 200' from a slender 14-20 story tower dosen't really hold together. The example you show in DC is nice, but those old brick rowhouses next to a modern condo building isn't close to the look they are proposing.

This thing looks corporate and all done with the same broad brush. I guess it's no different than the old Falkland Chase complex or the Summit Hills complex with their uniform look and single zoning, but an authentic urban feel shouldn't feel like a monoculture complex. A good example of what this could be while still being contemporary is National Harbor, which while still a complex, feels like a real slice of urbanism. The buildings are all variants of comtemporary styles and the streets are all mixed use with an ideal 6-9 story varied skyline. It's definatly a matter of opinion, and all in all this will be a great project which shouldn't be delayed, but it could be a lot better, and now is the time to start pushing for improvements.

by Thayer-D on Feb 16, 2013 8:58 pm • linkreport

@Thayer-D

I totally agree. Of course, what Tower is currently proposing is a master plan, which by its nature doesn't say much about the architecture of the individual buildings. I don't know if Bing Thom will design each of the buildings (and given the long range of the plan, that seems unlikely), but bringing in different architects or different styles as each of the buildings are developed would be a way to do exactly what you're talking about.

by dan reed! on Feb 16, 2013 9:12 pm • linkreport

The plan isn't so bad - it looks like the street grid could be more tightly integrated into the neighboring areas.

...a three story wing stretching out 200' from a slender 14-20 story tower dosen't really hold together.

Of course it's possible to have a plinth or long section with a tower sticking out of it. It just requires a proportional relationship. These renderings are more than a little vague, but I've seen it done spectacularly. Think of Pei's Society Hill complex. It's not like these buildings are that tall, anyway.

by Neil Flanagan on Feb 17, 2013 10:58 am • linkreport

Neil,
The rational IM Pei gave for insersiting his 31 story towers and accompanying townhouses into Philadelphia's 2-4 story Society Hill neighborhood was that the proportional relationship of the tower's windows corresponded with the proportions of a colonial era window in the adjacent historic rowhouses. Aesthetically, just because there's a numerical relationship between two buildings dosen't mean they are IN proportion with eachother. If that where the case, everything could be found to have a proportional relationship with everything else, just find the lowest common denominator and call it done, which is what Pei seems to have done.

Of course, all things being relative, there's no way of conclusivley establishing this fact beyond they way most people use these terms. Historically, the use of proportioning devices enabled one to percieve a relationship between two distinct masses through the use of a common element.

In a traditionally articulated facade, there would be a base, shaft and crown much like our bodies, or another device where by the base might be 3 stories, the shaft might be 9 stories and the crown might be another 3. Our bodies would "scale" to the 3 story base while the base would scale to the overall 15 story tower with a proportional relationship that was legible much like music employs there by using the transitive properties to scale a person to the 15 story tower. It might still feel uncomfortable standing next to it, but not as uncomfortable where the facade an undifferentiated grid.

This isn't to say that single shafts with in a low scaled "village" context can't be dramatically beautiful, but to say there's a proportional relationship between Society Hill's low scaled 18th century fabric and the 31 story IM Pei towers with their gridded facade is a bit of a stretch, no pun intended.

They could still achieve the density and more with urbane scaled buildings between 6-9 stories like most of the loved cities around the world and if they wanted the statement tower, then go for it. But if we're going to have a conversation about massing and proportions, regardless of one's stylistic preferences, then we at least ought to share a common understanding of the words used, kind of like a proportioning device.

by Thayer-D on Feb 17, 2013 3:16 pm • linkreport

I think my biggest issue with the design other than my already mentioned lack of a through street connection (and the lack of activation to East-West Highway, *I wanted to argue the presenters comment about it being impossible to rent space along EW Hwy and citing the current failures near Acorn Park as being because the Blair property keeps pedestrians from visiting that area*)is the use of 9'towers', 5 of which are skinny tall shafts. The scale of tall buildings in Silver Spring is that of larger rectangles.

I'm not arguing that every building as to look the same, but five very skinny tall towers will look very out of place with the surrounding architecture. The look is very Vancouver, and works because that's what all the buildings look like, but don't strike me as a good idea here. Maybe I need to see a full 3D rendering of the site as proposed, and the surroundings first. The scale of the 'shorter' 14 story buildings along Eastern Avenue feel more in keeping with the bulk scale of Silver Spring, although are probably too tall for Eastern Avenue. The five skinny buildings should be condensed into 3, two apartment towers and the office tower. That would free up more room to better the open space, make a new road connection and frankly could accommodate moving one or more of those buildings along Eastern Avenue closer to East West hwy, away from the single family homes in DC.

I have to imagine there will be plenty of changes before this project gets approved by Park and Planning, so we may be having this discussion again in 6 months.

by Gull on Feb 17, 2013 8:54 pm • linkreport

I agre with your assesment Gull on the aesthetics. The idea of pushing the bulk of the height towards the metro East-West side with more and taller buildings would free up some of the massing towards the Shepard Park single family residential side of the site. Ideally, the Planners would consider boulevarding East West Highway with a tree'd median and/or some on street parking to make it a better pedestrian street. Then you can see some real engagement with East-West Highway and possible with a thru street that connects East-West with Eastern Avenue. It's exciting to hear so much concensus on what would make better urbanism, even though it will end up being a compromise with everyones particular view.

by Thayer-D on Feb 18, 2013 8:14 am • linkreport

I welcome more townhomes instead of hi-rises, but I dispute that there are very few townhomes in downtown Silver Spring. From that very development, there are townhouses and condos across the street (West) going for a ways; 2 blocks N-W (across from the courthouse); and I seem to recall some to the East. There is also a lot of dense single family housing directly abutting the development.

by SJE on Feb 18, 2013 11:00 am • linkreport

Are you suggesting that there is a proportion system that cannot be described using numerical relationships?

Of course the proportion system is just a tool and of course it's about the relationship between two proportions. But that doesn't mean a dramatic contrast isn't possible. it's everywhere in traditional architecture.

Irrespective, the relationships in Philly feel good to me - heightened if the buildings weren't towers in the park. Isn't that what everyone means when they say things are "in proportion?"

by Neil Flanagan on Feb 18, 2013 11:20 am • linkreport

@SJE

There are townhouses in Silver Spring, but there aren't a lot of them. A quick look at the Census website shows that of the roughly 30000 residences in below-the-Beltway Silver Spring, just 1600 of them (or 5%) are "single-family attached," or in other words, townhouses. This doesn't count rental townhouses (like in Falkland Chase) or townhouse-style condos (like at Chevy Chase Crest on East-West Highway), but I doubt they add much more to the count.

It would be nice to have more "conventional" townhouses (i.e., you own the land your house sits on, like the ones in Cameron Hill by the Metro), but the land is too expensive in downtown Silver Spring to justify building them, so you'd have to put them in surrounding neighborhoods - and then you run into neighborhood opposition like with the Chelsea School development.

by dan reed! on Feb 18, 2013 11:37 am • linkreport

Carry on all you want about parking for the re-configured Blairs project being "unnecessary" because "most people living in downtown Silver Spring already get around by foot, bike or transit.".

Fact is, ALL of them won't. And a project of that size and magnitude cannot succeed with a market base of people who only live in downtown Silver Spring.

If the developers don't provide sufficient parking, the project will appeal only to a niche market - most people will not move into housing that provides no parking; most businesses won't locate in areas without sufficient parking.

There's a reason why Montgomery County has built so much cheap and free parking - even though "most people living in downtown Silver Spring already get around by foot, bike or transit".

It's called reality.

by ceefer66 on Feb 18, 2013 11:55 am • linkreport

@ceefer66:

It's called reality.

So reality dictates that this specific large amount of parking must all be necessary?

Or do you mean the reality of all of that empty parking near the Columbia Heights metro station? Because that reality would seem to suggest that it's possible to build too much parking in an urban development.

by Gray Spring on Feb 18, 2013 12:12 pm • linkreport

If the developers don't provide sufficient parking, the project will appeal only to a niche market - most people will not move into housing that provides no parking; most businesses won't locate in areas without sufficient parking.

I think the developers know better than you or I how to make their project appeal to their target market and become a financial success. Why not leave it to them to determine the optimal amount of parking?

by Falls Church on Feb 18, 2013 12:28 pm • linkreport

@ ceefer 66,
There's another reality that you don't seem to be accounting for, and that's Montgomery County's realization that we will need to move to more transit based design and development as noted here in a recent Washington Post article.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/montgomery-county-looks-to-get-hip/2013/02/16/2d477284-7577-11e2-95e4-6148e45d7adb_story_1.html

"Without transit-friendly neighborhoods, the area will probably never draw the kind of young energy and talent it desires." It isn't just about doing right with the planet, it's about the benjamins.

by Thayer-D on Feb 18, 2013 1:14 pm • linkreport

I think the taller buildings look great next to 40 foot tall rowhouses.

Way more interesting than DC's squat 6 to 12 story buildings being everywhere.

by H Street LL on Feb 18, 2013 4:30 pm • linkreport

@Falls Church and Thayer-D,

I'm no marketing specialist or urban planner, nor do I pretend to be.

I only know that I would not even consider moving into or locating my business in a complex that did not provide parking (and paying a premium for the privilege), least of all in an urban environment where parking is scarce.

Such a location might appeal to a certain segment of the market but I don't see it appealing to the majority.

Just a different opinion. Put away the guns.

by ceefer66 on Feb 18, 2013 8:58 pm • linkreport

but any given building doesn't need to appeal to the majority. Just to the segment they are marketing to.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Feb 18, 2013 11:27 pm • linkreport

...especially if that market segment is increasing.

by Thayer-D on Feb 19, 2013 7:39 am • linkreport

38% of DC households do not have a car at all which probably means the ratio of cars in DC is closer to 50+% of people (as a household often comprises more than one person) in the city get along fine without a car. A place like Downtown Silver Spring can do fine without a lot of parking because of the extensive transit service. There are plenty of places around the region that people can locate if they want to drive everywhere, but there are still is still unsatisfied market demand for walkable urbanism.

by Alan B. on Feb 19, 2013 9:41 am • linkreport

Living in downtown DC may make it easier to go without a car, as you are central to everything. Although you don't need a car in Silver Spring, having one is helpful. I don't use mine Monday-Friday, but use it just about every weekend to run errands that extend beyond a 20 minute bus or train ride. I think that makes the developers argument that they won't add a ton to rush-hour traffic, but may still need a lot of parking spaces.

I like the idea of the row/townhouses, I just wish the towers they proposed were bulkier. There is no need for 5 skinny towers that can be made into 3 fatter ones, and still keep all of the row house wrapped parking. I walked by the site Monday and looked at it, and couldn't even visualize it.

As for the desire for differing architecture, maybe they'll do what Pike and Rose is doing in White Flint, and get a different architect to design each phase, to ensure their 20+ acre project has multiple different feels to it.

by Gull on Feb 19, 2013 10:06 am • linkreport

This development should be only be approved contingent on the completion of the transit center and the start of construction of the purple line.

No to massive developments without significant increase in transit options.

by davidj on Feb 19, 2013 10:40 am • linkreport

@davidj I've got to agree with you on this one.

Not convinced this project won't add tremendously to car traffic in the area and disrupt quality of life in the adjacent, quiet DC neighborhoods.

How about they commit to building this project with no new additional parking? AND THEN better design the entire project to make it far easier to walk from each proposed building to the Silver Spring Metro. Otherwise, no way.

by nativedc on Feb 19, 2013 1:43 pm • linkreport

Even if the residents of this development are frequent transit users, most of them will probably still want to own cars. Especially since Sliver Spring is conveniently right off the Beltway.

If you make it car-unfriendly then you are significantly reducing the customer base for the shops and restaurants of this new development.

Also, the description of the current property as a "suburban relic" seems a little curious given that Silver Spring is, well, a DC suburb.

by Chris on Feb 20, 2013 2:52 pm • linkreport

3300 planned parking spaces is somehow car unfriendly?

by drumz on Feb 20, 2013 3:19 pm • linkreport

Well, I think several people were proposing drastically reducing that number.

by Chris on Feb 20, 2013 4:35 pm • linkreport

@Chris

As I've said before, 60% of people living in downtown Silver Spring DON'T drive to work. That number is likely to go down as more amenities are brought into the area within walking/biking distance. Sure, some people will continue to drive, but they are and will continue to be a minority. There's no reason why this project won't succeed by trying to attract visitors on foot, because they're already getting around by foot now.

BTW, downtown Silver Spring is also the state's second-largest business district and transportation center (after Baltimore). It may be "outside" of the city, but it is definitely an urban place.

by dan reed! on Feb 20, 2013 5:25 pm • linkreport

Point taken that many people don't drive to work. But does the 60% number also apply to recreational and shopping activities on the weekends? I'm thinking if you wanted to (for example) shop at the Apple Store, or catch a concert at Merriweather, it would be nice to have a car on hand.

by Chris on Feb 20, 2013 6:10 pm • linkreport

I live in DT silver spring, walk to work/hang out locally during the week and drive on the weekends to reach other parts of the region to shop/eat/hang out. Of course, on the weekend there is no 'rush hour' as many trips are taken at people's leisure, therefore it's less of an impact to increase weekend drivers.

Suggesting the development is contingent on construction of the purple line is just asking for a lawsuit by the property owners. Montgomery Co has successfully put in staging plans for White Flint and the Life Science City as part of the recent Master Plan updates, that do limit development potential until certain infrastructure improvements are either funded or built, however that's not currently part of the Silver Spring Master Plan (though may be a good topic to bring up if there ever is an update).

by Gull on Feb 21, 2013 2:03 pm • linkreport

Narrow towers sway more from wind. For those wanting to trim the parking - People may not drive each day to work, but they still own cars for use at home. They're not left with public-transit only options when the Metro ends service early most nights, and late bus service is limited.
When designing streets beside buildings, consider people who are elderly or disabled needing a drop-off entrance - if not parking, there needs to be loading areas they can use that don't block the main streets or intersections. In practicality, there has to be a street-available entrance for people to move in their furniture as well.
I think tall, higher density buildings with preferably underground parking and a garage, and a friendly park is a good plan for the area, and consistent with the look that belongs there in Silver Spring. TBH, I don't know the point of the townhouses. If someone wants to see gorgeous townhouse plans, though, look down on Seven Locks Road near Montrose. Those are beautiful, from the front and back.

by asffa on Oct 18, 2013 11:36 am • linkreport

anybody know what an "imagination playground" is? Without details, I'd think "imagine there's a playground here"

by asffa on Oct 18, 2013 11:37 am • linkreport

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