Saturday, June 17, 2006

Look into the future of Silver Spring

Curious what Silver Spring is going to look like in five years? I've put together a Flickr photoset of various development projects currently in the works for Silver Spring. I didn't search too hard, so there may be some more out there to be added in the future. Most of these pictures (and project descriptions) are taken from the MNCPPC website.

Seriously, though, what's with the pedestrian clipart in this particular picture for the Galaxy Condos? This family looks like they are fleeing something in terror. The mother appears to be in shock. Maybe she just visited the sales office and saw the prices for two bedroom condos. Perhaps the guy in the suit is the sales rep chasing her, desperate for a sale.

And check out this tool:

Nice hat, dude. Also, peep the high-tech hardware he's packing. Is that a pre-release beta version of the Sidekick III he's rocking on his belt clip? No, it appears to be an ubercool cassette Walkman. Was the contemporary clipart too expensive for the developers? Were there no post-1991 images available?


C. P. Zilliacus said...

I think it's important to note that in spite of the CBD zoning, the overlay zones, the Metrorail station, the high-density development and so on, downtown Silver Spring (just like the rest of what is called Silver Spring) is still fundamentally suburban, and efforts to reduce or eliminate use of the private automobile (through deliberately inadequate parking capacity or other means) are likely to end in failure (or construction of more parking capacity).

Most of these dwelling units seem to be directed at a relatively wealthy demographic, and those demographics usually own cars.

Silver Springer said...

To C. P. Zilliacus: I totally disagree with your assessment that downtown Silver Spring is "like the rest of Silver spring". It's urban atmosphere and centrality of different uses is the reason they call it downtown in the first place. It is where commerce, retail and residential meet in an urbanized form. It is all relative, compare Silver Spring to Ballston, Rosslyn, Bethesda etc and it can stand right up there with the best of them, in fact it is the largest urban district in the D.C. area. It is the next best thing to downtown D.C. as far as an urban cluster design and I can’t really tell the difference when comparing some parts.

Compare Silver Spring to the rest of the country and you just don't find areas this large and dense along with the economic strength lying outside a major city core. It is a rarity indeed. Now what the planning board could do (instead of the totally contradictory codes today) is eliminate the parking requirement and allow higher height, especially if developers have to keep creating useless pocket parks as a “public space” amenity. I have to ask, what would you do instead?

WashingtonGardener said...

Writing as a longtime area resident (going on 15 years), your suggestion, SilverSpringer, of eliminating building height restrictions and green spaces is appalling. I'm with you though that this is a URBAN area and expecting parking accomodations is laughable - I wouldn't dream of driving to the Smithsonian, Pentagon City or the Verizon Center and folks who come to downtown SS should start thinking the same way. We need to champion the light rail, more pedestrian-only areas, and encourage car-less residences in the downtown.
As to green space - if anything, developers should be required to expand their "pocket parks," add green roofs and decent street plantings - plus maybe a donation to county parks. The popular use of the "turf" field at Veteran's Plaza shows plainly how desparate people are for green space to relax and gather in.
For those who live here, not only do we want to see the building heights of the current master plan enforced, but we want the overlay/exceptions that allowed monsters like the Silver Spring Tower to be plopped down in a residential neighbrhood to be repealed. Keeping buildings at a reasonable height makes it a more human-scale, less impersonal, and more friendly feeling -- not too mention keeps some of our historic and architecturally interesting older buildings intact. The "tear-down the old, just to build something new" mentality is not necessary nor welcome here. New CAN be better - but it has to proven that it IS better before more of our past is buried and lost like the Armory or bastrardized like the Canada Dry plant.

Ben Ross said...

The Action Committee for Transit has testified repeatedly in front of the county council in favor of eliminating parking requirements for residential development near Metro stations. We have been essentially ignored.

The Planning Board transportation staff and the County DPWT still operate according to the failed 1950s model of a suburb where everyone travels by car. And the county council is scared that adjoining neighborhoods will object because they will fear on-street parking by tenants of apartment buildings (even though all neighborhoods in the county that are anywhere near Metro have permit parking).

The current rules mean that if you want to live in a condo in downtown Silver Spring and don't own a car, you have to pay for a parking space anyway.

And if you are a renter and don't rent a parking space, you are subsidizing your fellow tenants who do have parking spaces. The monthly charge needed to pay back the cost of building an underground parking space is well above $200 per month. Because the county mandates construction of many more parking spaces than the market is willing to pay for in the form of parking charges, the landlord can't get anywhere near that much rent for a parking space. So the remainder is included in the rent which is charged to all tenants whether they have a car or not.

With these policies like this that force transit riders to subsidize drivers, it's no wonder we have traffic problems.

Silver Springer said...

To WashingtonGardener: I live in Silver Spring too and have been in this area for over 22 years. I watched it exist as the forgotten place that it was full of abandoned buildings. Contrary to your belief, I am not advocating for the elimination of green space, or historic buildings (and by historic I mean event\architecturally significant, not every old building is historically significant). One must way the benefits vs. the costs; many buildings will simply stagnate and decay without redevelopment. Take for example the National Dry Cleaning institute building, it would still sit there vacant if not for the 90ft (which is hardly tall) building as part of its redevelopment. To not want any development is a selfish and irresponsible act that lacks the consideration of future generations. To hinder some of these projects means to hurt the revitalization of Silver Spring. Old and new can coexist.

What is a reasonable height in your opinion? Height has little to do with being impersonal or being friendly, just ask New York City or even Rosslyn. It is what is at the ground floor that counts.

Silver Spring is urban (as you agreed to), it has been this way for far more than 15 years. Heights above the norm that you would not find in other parts of the county are appropriate here. Silver Spring is designated as an urban district in the county. It doesn't make sense to have a city full of 2 level structures so close to multiple modes of mass transit. Discovery certainly wouldn’t be able to fit into a 2 level structure on its lot and you certainly wouldn’t have the green space there if not for its height. In fact you would have more green space if it was allowed to go taller. You want to maximize the limited land that is there, to have otherwise is to create sprawl. Because the CBD has a restrictive boundary the only place to go is up, either that or they can make Woodside and other surrounding areas "free for all". You can't have it both ways. You can't have green space, sustain mass transit have pedestrian oriented areas vibrant and full of people or development needed to revitalize areas without the adequate height and density. It wouldn’t be economically feasible to a developer and we can have the “dead” crime ridden Silver Spring all over again. Even park and planning has admitted that restrictive heights contributed to the decline of Silver Spring, only when they were relaxed a little did the revitalization take full swing. Witness the problems Wheaton is having now, it is essentially stagnating. Greenfield over infill developments like Clarksburg are environmentally unfriendly and induce traffic, not high rise buildings.

The reason why Silver Spring Tower is considered a monstrosity is not because of it's height but because it is an architectural disaster, if it was designed like the Edgemoor in Bethesda people would want to deem it historic. Residents should not be running away every project because of height, especially in an urban area. I haven’t heard residents complain about the architectural designs or mix of uses in some of these new proposed projects. A lot of them are on a range from bland to ugly and 100% residential (witness the Galaxy).

As for pocket parks, they in most cases do not equal green space. Most of these "parks" are impervious surfaces paved over with cement and brick that contribute heavily to flash flooding, sewer and creek overflows, and soil erosion. The pocket parks\plazas will have a negative affect in the long run because of their size, they are too small to be utilized by patrons adequately and are hardly ever used by residents, once these buildings age they will contribute to crime\safety concerns, most of all they take away from a buildings foot print of what could have been additional units for affordable housing.

The veterans turf field is not what I would consider a pocket park, it is large enough to function as a playing field\green expanse, a paved area with a bench and a tree is not. I have advocated for green roofs and public room space as part of the public amenity package besides these pocket parks. Developers should be encouraged to contribute funds to create and maintain one large green space instead of a numerous small ones. Larger spaces are utilized far better. This is what the developers of the Adele project did; they contributed $70,000 dollars towards the rehabilitation of the Fenton Street Park.