Thursday, July 05, 2007

Ugly Photos Wanted



After seeing this old photo of Georgia Avenue at ThayerAvenue.com, it got me to thinking – I’d really like to have some photos of Silver Spring in the late 80’s and early 90’s to be able to help certain people appreciate what it was like before the wicked developers came in and “ruined” everything.

I still hear a surprising number of people talking about how terrible the redeveloped downtown is, how it was so much better before, and how the chains have destroyed Silver Spring’s character.

Bullshit. It sucked. I was there.

For those of you who weren’t around or don’t remember, the block of Ellsworth where DTSS is now located had on one side a filthy McDonald’s with a parking lot where homeless people congregated and on the other side a lot for the Rite Aid and various other businesses that took turns occupying portions of the decrepit shopping center. (You can still see what’s left of these lots on this outdated Google Maps image of the area.) I seem to recall there being a Mr. Goodwrench auto repair place on that street as well. There were not some great independent, mom ‘n pop businesses evicted in order to make space for another Starbucks. (Side note: a Wall Street Journal study last year showed that the addition of a Starbucks in a neighborhood actually HELPS independent coffee shops; many even try to lease the space next door.)

I’d really like to find photos of Silver Spring during this time period, but the problem is that most people would never bother to take photos of crappy stuff like that. Doug Duncan did use some last year in his aborted campaign for the governorship of Maryland. There is a certain amount of irony in the fact that the protesters are fighting the development company whose efforts resulted in that block being worth photographing.

Anyway, my point is that I’d appreciate it if anyone who has digitized (or can digitize) photos of downtown during this period would email them to me so that I can assemble a photo gallery of pre-redevelopment Silver Spring. I will post them online if and when I receive them.



20 comments:

Thayer Avenue said...

Sweet idea. I'll see if my friend can scrounge up anything else. I, (un?)fortunately, was not around these parts until 2000. Can't wait to see what comes up. Though I do remember seeing a photo of the Silver Theater with "Star Trek 2: The Wrath of Khan" on the marquee. Looked pretty skanky.

Sligo said...

I think I know the photo of which you speak. It is actually of when "Star Trek III: The Search for Spock" was playing. A blown-up version of that photo can now be found in the lobby of the theatre. What I find hilarious about it is that I saw that particular movie at the Silver Theatre.

Silver Springer said...

While I can respect (to a certain degree) the impact and physical result of the Downtown Silver Project…who are we kidding? If it wasn’t for Discovery building their world headquarters here, what would keep the PFA project from being at the level of City Place mall?

Peterson should be kissing Discovery's butt for anchoring his project.

Thayer Avenue said...

Yes! That's where I saw the photo. And "The Search for Spock" makes sense. Makes me think of that Seinfeld episode:

"Well, it's not the size of the opponent, Elaine, it's, uh, the ferocity... That's from, uh, Star Trek III... The Search for Spock... Yeah, I know Jerry will tell you that The Wrath of Khan is the better picture, but for me, I always..."

Sligo said...

SS, the only problem with your argument is that the DTSS area is busiest on the weekend... when Discovery is closed.

Sligo said...

Star Trek III is definitely inferior to Khan, but it did give us the legendary line, "You Klingon bastard you killed my son!"

Silver Springer said...

Sligo, I’m speaking more of the large intangible impact (more so than the often used and misguided argument that offices are simply good for sending out workers during the day to patronize shops). The PFA project didn’t/doesn’t have the clout to tackle the negative perception of Silver Spring on a larger scale like Discovery did.

The fact that Discovery chose Silver Spring for their world headquarters of all places sent a “WTF!?!?” message to the minds of the business community and the rest of the D.C. region who only saw Silver Spring as a laughing stock and shit hole.

If it was just the PFA project I’m sure we would get an “Isn’t that cute, good for them” response at the most but I do not believe we would see this amount of interest without the multi-billion dollar firm across the street.

Also the police and county quickly get their act together when a multi-billion dollar firm moves into town.

Sligo said...

SS, there's no way to know how successful DTSS would have been without Discovery. The DTSS project was already in the works prior to Discovery announcing their intention to move to Silver Spring. I would imagine the establishment of the DTSS area played a part in their decision to move.

Silver Springer said...

Discovery’s decision to move to Silver Spring simply reinforced PFA’s investment of what they saw as a very risky venture, that’s why the County was so involved the development. Truth be told, PFA should have funded construction of the Civic Center if the County had much leverage back then.

Do you know that the office component was supposed to be 11 floors instead of 9? I hear Foulger Pratt is now regretful of that decision to scale it down. Some cutbacks and negotiations were made in favor of PFA.

Why do you think it took three developers to build this project in the first place? Peterson or Foulger could have easily done it themselves but the financial backers and the developers themselves found it too risky but in truth was secret untapped gold mine!

In the end it’s the community that really make PFA project a success, the amount of people who come there is what makes the Whole Foods and movie theater one of the most patronized in the country and line PFAs pockets.

Sligo said...

I believe Discovery building was initially supposed to be taller as well.

I don't know if it is directly related to this, but there are unused elevator shafts in the DCI building that have been turned into meeting rooms. It is very unusual.

Thayer Avenue said...

And as I understand it, Discovery was also instrumental in getting AFI to take up residence at the Silver Theater. Discovery certainly provided more infrastructure, but I also wonder if collaboration was worked out as part of the up front deal (e.g., SilverDocs)? Very much like a series of dominos falling. And I, personally, LOVE what it's done to my property value.

thecourtyard said...

Someone should remind Richard Layman of what Silver Spring used to be. Last week, he wrote a post calling the new Silver Spring "grotesque." Funny, though, that people who live in the less-than-stellar D.C. neighborhoods he writes about do a good deal of their shopping and weekend hanging-out in Downtown Silver Spring.

Sligo said...

Here's that article Dan is referring to... his link was broken.

I'm also offended by his disrespecting of Cluck U. Heck, I'd kill for a wing place in Silver Spring.

Debbie Cook said...

I remember those days well, but I don't think I took any pictures. The biggest change I've noticed is that in those days the streets were always empty especially at night (except for the drunks,bums and drug addicts hanging out at the ARMORY PLACE)Remember the Police station being in a trailer in the parking lot of the vacant shopping center? The Lee Plaza was the nicest building in town and even that was empty with the occasional homeless person showing up in the lobby. People just can't imagine how bad it was then!

Anonymous said...

Great post! "those days" weren't even that long ago. We moved to Silver Spring in 2000, and we thought the Georgia Ave/Colesville crossroads was a dump! And yes, it was totally empty in the evenings and on weekends, and neighbors warned me against stepping foot into Silver place.

I think the impact of what has happened in DTSS spreads far beyond the two blocks of Ellsworth- South Silver Spring, and even Fenton St seems to be on the up and up!

Sligo said...

Here's one terrible photo from 1992 from the Silver Spring Historical Society.

rtsind said...

There are still homeless people hanging around the MacDonalds, and sleeping behind the MacDonalds.


If you sit outside the Starbucks and the Einstein Bagel place you will be accosted by the homeless.

The big reason for the Homeless sleeping on the streets during the warm weather, is that Progress place is closed for sleeping during this time.

JP McD said...

Great idea -- I've lived in the Silver Spring / Takoma Park Metroplex since the late 70's and i have no idea what people are nostalgic about. There is still plenty of funky stuff in DTSS. We don't have four used bookstores or 3 thrift shops any more, but we do have a vibrant and interesting nightlife. There was no way anyone would get out of their car in SS after dark in the late 80's or '90s. A Red Lobster is not too high a price to pay to get a viable and lively downtown. A little more interesting retail down toward the old firehouse, a couple more good restaurants and taverns, a little more live music and we're there!

Richard Layman said...

I should have clarified. I don't like urban renewal. As I write about urban renewal vs. revitalization (see the book _Cities: Back from the Edge_) I term Silver Spring much more like urban renewal than ground up revitalization. I also lean to independent businesses rather than chains. I will cheerfully admit to those as biases in the way I look at the world.

Most inner ring areas, and much of DC was s*** in the late 1980s and early 1990s too. DC was in a real estate recession from 1989 to 1999, and it was still down in DC, until about 2002...

Anonymous said...

thayer avenue is wrong. AFI was committed to the Silver Theatre project first. They were in discussion with Discovery about the SilverDocs concept and Discovery decided to take a look at Silver Spring. It was a great location across the street from a metro station. They saw the potential.