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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

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New York City’s High Line park offers lessons for public space design in Montgomery County’s urban centers

More than half of the world’s population now lives in urban areas. Cities and urban-style environments will house two-thirds of humanity by 2050. Montgomery County is in sync with this trend as many of its communities, including Bethesda and Silver Spring, transform into urban places with higher densities.

As our planet urbanizes, interest in studying the effects of nature on the human mind and body is increasing. Growing evidence suggests that daily exposure to nature boosts our health, productivity and creativity. Children in particular benefit greatly from regular intervals of time spent in natural environments.

These positive results underscore the importance of … Continue reading

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Plans for central Montgomery County are now being realized through urban-style, mixed-use developments

In central Montgomery County, vibrant parks, walkable streets, centers of activity and new buildings are arriving in areas that were once a sea of asphalt. The movement began with the 24-acre Pike & Rose district that replaced the 1960s Mid-Pike Plaza at Old Georgetown Road and Rockville Pike.

Opening in 2014, this ambitious project led by Federal Realty is one of the first developments in the nation to transform a strip center into a vibrant community. It is planned to have more than 1,500 housing units, with 864 already built, and 12.5 percent of the units will be moderately priced dwelling units.

Pike & Rose is … Continue reading

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First session of Winter Speaker Session focuses on infill possibilities as land becomes scarce for conventional developments.

Here is a question to discuss over your next dinner party: where can Montgomery County fit an additional 87,100 households?

Our county, like many jurisdictions across the nation, has a housing problem. Demand for homes is persistent and space for new dwellings is limited, forcing families to consider too many tradeoffs, such as paying higher housing costs or selecting homes in communities far from their employment.

The good news is that there are solutions to this problem that can be applied in Montgomery County, as revealed in the first session of the Planning Department’s Winter Speaker Series on the Economic Future … Continue reading

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The Planning Department’s Research and Special Projects Division undertakes cutting-edge studies to influence important decisions about the county

Our plans rely on accurate data about demographics, housing, commercial real estate and the economy to inform recommendations and decisions about land use. This information is carefully gathered by a dedicated group within the Planning Department – the eight staff members of our Research and Special Projects Division – who help us get ahead of the planning curve with their ongoing investigations.

We like to call this division “the think tank for the county” because it provides a wealth of intelligence for the County Council and various government agencies. Currently, the research staff is hard at work on several important studies … Continue reading

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Changes in work patterns and population growth are leading to new types of schools

Walking past 8000 Jones Branch Drive in Tysons Corner, it is easy to assume that offices occupy this regular, three-story building. Entering its light filled atrium, however, does not reveal a corporate lobby or water cooler talk, but a gathering space where hundreds of chattering students dart between classes and engage in extracurricular activities. Welcome to Basis Independent School, a new type of center for learning.

Basis Independent is a private K-12 school that sits within the 120,000 square feet of this former Tysons Corner office building. This renovation project was designed by the DC architecture firm Perkins Eastman with Gilbane as the design-build partner. … Continue reading

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Montgomery Modern Tour Day 2017 featured modernist buildings designed by the Silver Spring architecture firm Cohen, Haft & Associates. This event, held on Sunday, October 8, was our fourth annual Montgomery Modern Tour and was co-sponsored by AIA Potomac Valley and Docomomo DC.

Tour leader Clare Lise Kelly (right) of the Montgomery County Planning Department greets Tina Patterson, the newest Planning Board member, who joined the group on the bus.

We boarded the bus at the Bender Jewish Community Center of Greater Washington in Rockville.

Our first stop was The Hilltop at Seven Hills Lane, a 10-acre woodland neighborhood of 32 modernist houses designed by Cohen, Haft & Associates. Developed by Albert Brodsky and Edith Matthews, The Hilltop … Continue reading

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Economics, location, architectural design and zoning regulations play important roles in determining new uses for vacant office buildings

In a previous blog post, we explored trends likely to impact the adaptive reuse of office buildings, as illustrated through the Octave 1320 office-to-residential conversion in downtown Silver Spring. With its final unit now sold, the successful project prompted us to think about the future of office conversions in Montgomery County.

As cited in the 2015 Office Market Assessment and noted in countless other reports and news articles, the Washington region’s office market currently faces stiff headwinds that are likely to continue in the foreseeable future.  Montgomery County is no exception. As of July 2017, the office vacancy rate in the … Continue reading

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Recent analysis of three past plans reveals goals for housing and public facilities were accomplished, while visions for commercial spaces and transit have been slower to achieve

Planning, by design, is a forward-looking field and with 20 to 30-year plan horizons. Planning departments don’t often look back to see what happened with their visions. Such analysis is usually too challenging – staff who have worked on the plan have moved on and departments don’t often have the capacity or resources to handle such a task along with their day-to-day planning work.

The Montgomery Planning Department, however, decided to tackle this task in 2016 with three plans.  We wanted to find out what had happened in different types of … Continue reading