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New plans for suburban communities focus on health The suburbs have been blamed for a host of health problems, from depression to obesity. Certainly, the social isolation, dependence on the car and lack of exercise that are often a part of suburban living aren’t good for our mental and physical well-being. But today’s suburbs – particularly established communities in Montgomery County– are becoming healthier as we plan and build neighborhoods where exercise is part of people’s daily routine. Health is not just a byproduct of how we live. It’s also related to where we live. A healthy environment makes it easier for residents to adopt a healthy lifestyle, whether it is achieved by providing more public parks and bike paths… Read more »

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The Great Recession had a profound impact on industry and labor conditions throughout the United States. The ensuing recovery has been uneven – both geographically and across time – and today, many places have not recovered or have economies that differ from the pre-recessionary period. Montgomery County’s economy was also affected by the Great Recession, however, its employment shrank less than those of other jurisdictions during the height of the recession. Our research shows that employment in the county declined 1.8 percent between 2008 and 2011, compared to 3.9 percent nationwide. The reason for this tempered loss is the role played by the federal government in the county’s economy. Industries such as finance, construction, retail and others were supported by… Read more »

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Seattle-based consultant Paula Rees shares her experiences in enriching real estate developments with art and design “It’s all in the combination of great details,” said Paula Rees, principal of the Seattle-based firm Foreseer, while revealing her secrets to placemaking to a large audience at the Montgomery County Planning Department. Rees showed image after image of public artworks, quirky signage, “tattooed” facades and inviting storefronts to demonstrate her points. Her lively projects at Pike and Rose in North Bethesda, Santana Row in San Jose, Assembly Row in Boston and other locations were part of an inspiring presentation that drew a standing-room-only crowd to the Planning Department’s auditorium on December 2. Rees started her talk with a basic definition of place as… Read more »

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A new trend was the design of concrete buildings which expressed the natural character of this building material. Starting in the 1960s, Montgomery County business districts were punctuated by statement buildings that celebrate the raw nature of concrete.   The design of monumental buildings constructed with unfinished concrete cladding were influenced by the work of pioneering modernist Le Corbusier and his use of béton brut, or raw concrete.  The name was anglicized as Brutalism, a term which has acquired negative connotations.  More recently, the style has been dubbed Heroic architecture, as more people have come to appreciate these buildings for their honest expression and as a product of their time. An early local example of Brutalism was the award-winning National Sand… Read more »

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The Montgomery County Planning Department, in cooperation with the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (MWCOG), recently developed a new forecast of population, households and employment from 2010 to 2045.  These data-based forecasts are used by government entities and the private sector for various uses, including transportation, water and air quality modeling, and analyzing commercial and residential markets.  This latest forecast, known as Round 9.0, is a major reassessment of assumptions made about people, households and jobs in the county. The draft Round 9.0 forecast anticipates that Montgomery County households, defined as occupied housing units with related or unrelated persons, are expected to increase from about 374,800 in 2015 to 461,900 in 2045, an increase of 87,100 households or 23 percent. … Read more »

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Reimagining suburbs in the 21st century draws on the best of the past   The communities that started the trend of 20th-century suburbanism shared a number of common traits. Many of them were focused on rail or trolley lines. Most had some retail uses in close proximity – corner stores or small retail blocks. They connected to nature through tree-lined curvilinear streets and small neighborhood parks and open spaces. Montgomery County’s earliest suburbs – Chevy Chase, Kensington and Takoma Park — all exhibit these features. As suburbs grew and the areas between the rail and trolley lines filled in with auto-centric swaths of single-family homes, some of the essential traits of the older, original suburbs were lost. Now, in the… Read more »

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Winning county projects set high standards for developers to follow   The dynamic image of the Purple Line speeding through the Silver Spring Library site convinced an independent jury to choose that building for the Montgomery County Planning Department’s 2016 Design Excellence Award. “The design makes a statement about the importance of public transportation. It’s a great gift to the community,” said jury chair Yolanda Cole during the awards ceremony on October 20. This year’s Celebrate Design event, co-sponsored with the Potomac Valley AIA, was held at the Silver Spring Civic Building, just down the street from the new library with its ground-level space reserved for the future light rail station. The first part of the evening program showcased the… Read more »

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Zoning codes literally shape our communities, governing the spacing of driveways, the number of spaces in parking lots, the heights of buildings, the placements of sidewalks, and the size of blocks along with the activities (or “uses”) allowed in each neighborhood. These codes determine whether we will live in a compact, walkable community or in a place where an automobile is needed to get anywhere.   Some codes have been found that date back thousands of years. Many European cities have been continuously coded since the 11th or 12th century, contributing to the character that makes these cities appealing today. These rules were created to govern the relationship between what gets built on private property and the public spaces around… Read more »

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David Frey’s “Mad About Modern” in the new issue of Bethesda Magazine highlights mid-century modern design in Montgomery County, featuring modernist tract houses in Rockville, Wheaton and Bethesda. Three residences in the article are in Montgomery Modern tours—past and future!   Carderock Springs house (1963) Owners: Jonas Carnemark and Wendy Ann Larson National Register Historic District Architect: Keyes Lethbridge & Condon Photos of Carnemark-Larson House, from our 2013 Montgomery Modern Bus Tour   Hammond Wood House (1950) Owner: Michael Cook Architect: Charles M. Goodman Photos from our 2014 Montgomery Modern Bike Tour   Oak Spring House (1966) Owners: Mike Lecy and Kit Yeoh Architect: Deigert & Yerkes This house will be included in our tour of Oak Spring for this… Read more »

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“If you design communities for automobiles, you get more automobiles. If you design them for people, you get walkable, livable communities.” Parris Glendening – Former Governor of Maryland “Our streets and squares make up what we call the public realm, which is the physical manifestation of the common good. When you degrade the public realm, the common good suffers.” James Howard Kunstler – Writer, Urbanist   Studies throughout the country have drawn the same conclusions regarding the relationship between house and garage. Townhouses with garages placed inconspicuously at the rear of the property create better neighborhoods and generate greater economic value than townhouses with garages fronting the street.   Look at the townhouses in our region built over the past… Read more »