"Let's use this space!" say mysterious signs around Silver Spring's unfinished transit center
While repair work continues on the Silver Spring Transit Center, the entire block around it remains roped off. On Friday morning, big signs appeared asking to turn the space into a temporary park.
Six black-and-white posters hang from the fences around the transit center on Colesville Road and Wayne Avenue, reading "Move the fence? Let's use this space." They sport photos of different activities that could happen there, like outdoor movie screenings, musical performances, and festivals. In the bottom-right corner is the hashtag #DTSS, meant for people to respond on social media.
Two Silver Spring residents placed the signs early Friday morning. They asked not to be identified to keep the focus on the message, not the act itself. "The Montgomery County election has just happened; people have gotten reelected," they said. "This is an issue a lot of people ran their campaigns on, but not a lot has happened."
They added, "We wanted to do this to bring back the bigger discussion…which is: what is the future of the transit center? What are the short-term uses of the site?"
Montgomery County broke ground on the transit center in 2008, which was supposed to tie together local and regional bus routes, the Red and future Purple lines, and MARC commuter rail. Work stopped in 2011 after workers discovered serious structural defects within the $120 million complex.
After some disagreement between the county and builder Foulger-Pratt about who was responsible and how to fix the building, repairs began in June. County officials say the transit center could open next year.
The transit center in 2012. Today, the space around it is covered in grass. Photo by thisisbossi on Flickr.
Recognizing that the fence is necessary because the transit center is still an active construction site, the sign-hangers say they hope WMATA, who owns the land, would be willing to move it away from the sidewalk. "We talk about Silver Spring being this urban, vibrant place, but our biggest asset, our front door, is horrible," they said. "What is a chain-link fence for us to be presenting to the region when we're trying to attract people to live here, to work here?"
Moving the fence even 20 feet away from the sidewalk, they argue, could still keep people out of danger while creating space for aesthetic improvements or other activities. "This can significantly improve the experience of people who use the transit center," they say. "You could add some trees and planter boxes, so you could move them easily."
This isn't the first time community members have discussed the land around the transit center. Earlier this year, Councilmember Hans Riemer and former Planning Board chair Gus Bauman proposed turning it into a park.
The sign-hangers say that's not their goal. "It's a prime development site, not a future long-term open space site," they say. "But we can enjoy it while it's here, and help inform what happens here in the future."
So far, the two signs immediately outside the Metro station have been taken down, but the other signs on Colesville Road and Wayne Avenue remain.
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