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In a Los Angeles park, hot pink benches and chairs play a vital role of respite and identity, revealing the transformative power of color

Grand Park – known simply as the “pink park” – is a 12-acre urban oasis in the heart of downtown Los Angeles. The park reopened in 2012, transforming a dreary government plaza into a spectacular community centerpiece. In a bustling urban setting where the park offers much-needed relief, color plays a key role in defining its identity and providing lessons for planners and designers of public spaces in Montgomery County.

The designers of Grand Park, Rios Clementi Hale Studios, expressed the multiculturalism of Los Angeles though the colors and textures of flora and fauna drawn … Continue reading

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In the previous two posts, I argued that we have a serious shortfall in the supply of new housing at every price level and that this drives up housing costs. Now I’ll take a look at retail and office space to try to offer some perspective on what’s going on in the market for commercial real estate and what it says about consumer preferences, our economic well-being, and what we can do to adapt to attract and retain employers and their employees in the future.

Our Retail and Office Markets

Even as many other parts of the country – and the DC region – are dealing with a glut of retail space, Montgomery County’s retail supply is, overall, strong … Continue reading

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As I explained in my last post, Montgomery County’s continued population growth (even if this growth is slow in relative terms) coupled with constrained wages and housing supply, means that housing affordability becomes a bigger problem. This chart show the proportion of renters and homeowners with a mortgage who pay at least 35 percent of their income on housing costs:

The lack of affordable housing hurts the poor more than anyone else, but our high housing costs also hurt middle and even upper income residents. As for the impact on economic development and jobs, we risk driving away highly-skilled workers who have choices about where to live and work. Eventually, if we begin … Continue reading

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In earlier posts, I outlined where Montgomery County stands in terms of jobs and wages, discussed the related issue of income inequality and pointed out that the older segment of our population is going to grow disproportionately to other age groups over the next two decades.

Now let’s assess the past and future rate of population growth, job openings and housing construction, and the relationship of these factors to lagging wage growth in contributing to one of most significant economic challenges: a shortage of affordable housing.

Population and job growth

Before we can evaluate how much new housing and office space is needed in the future, we first have to understand how many people (and jobs) we might reasonably … Continue reading

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In the last post I explained why I think Montgomery County is in pretty good shape (at least for the moment) on the economic measures that matter most – jobs and wages. But serious challenges to our ability to maintain and improve our quality of life are already apparent and I’m concerned about our future competitiveness.

Jobs and income: the bad news

In real, inflation-adjusted terms, median incomes in Montgomery County have not recovered to the levels reached before the recession that began in 2008. For that matter, real median incomes are down or flat in every DC-area jurisdiction except for the District and Loudon County. This chart shows the weakness of the recovery in incomes:

 

          

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The debate over the future of Montgomery County – what kind of place we are, what kind of place we want to be and how we can pay to maintain our quality of life –has taken on a healthy sense of urgency during this election season. But I’m not sure that the public debate over these issues has provided a clear picture of our economic strengths and weaknesses, and – more importantly – where we need to focus our efforts to bolster our economic competitiveness.

Now that the primaries are over and dust is in the process of settling, I want to provide an assessment of our economic health and prospects. I hope to show that while we … Continue reading

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As our county continues to become more diverse, public art can fill a uniting role in bringing communities together

The Wheaton, Silver Spring and Bethesda Metro stations have pieces of public art that are hard to miss. The installation of Penguin Rush Hour (pictured above), Tunnel Vision or Beacon I will likely stop you in your tracks while you wonder: “How did this artwork get here?”

Penguin Rush Hour by artist Sally Callmer was originally created as a temporary public art installation at the Silver Spring station in the 1990s. However, the community united to raise money to repair the artwork and make it permanent. The penguins were so much a part of the community’s identity that Silver Spring … Continue reading

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Planners presented cutting-edge concepts and projects through record five presentations at the 2018 National American Planning Association Conference in New Orleans

Montgomery Planning hit it big in the Big Easy. We were thrilled to present five sessions at the national American Planning Association (APA) conference, held from April 21 through April 23, 2018 in New Orleans. These presentations represent the most participation ever from our agency at this annual forum and we received great audience feedback about our ideas.

This year’s APA conference attracted about 5,700 planners, elected officials and planning junkies from across the country to learn about the latest trends and solutions to the challenges of land use, economic development, community revitalization and more (see photos of … Continue reading

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Montgomery County master plans recommend ways of eliminating traffic fatalities and severe injuries By David Anspacher and Jessica McVary

If you think implementing Vision Zero to eliminate traffic fatalities in your city is challenging, try starting a program in the suburbs where communities were designed for the automobile and largely devoid of concern for walking, bicycling and transit use!

While more than 40 cities in North America have endorsed Vision Zero, only one suburban jurisdiction – Montgomery County, Maryland – has embraced this strategy to eliminate all traffic-related fatalities and severe injuries by 2030 while increasing mobility. Montgomery County is attempting to demonstrate that realizing Vision Zero is not just possible in San Francisco and Washington DC, but also … Continue reading

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Study reveals decline in number of family-sized units for county residents

The completed Rental Housing Study, presented to the Montgomery County Council in July 2017, reveals a need for large, family-sized units with 3 or more bedrooms. The study found that a large number of these family-sized units were built in the county over many years — currently, almost 40 percent of all rental units have 3+ bedrooms.  These units comprise both multi-family rental apartments and owned units, condos or single-family units, known as conversion units.

However, when these units are disaggregated into multi-family rental apartments, the number of family-sized units become smaller with these units concentrated in older structures. The study also found that only around 12 percent … Continue reading