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Montgomery Modern

 

Exuberant roof forms are a hallmark of mid-century modern architecture. In contrast to the simple gable roofs of traditional design, modernist architects employed a wide variety of inventive forms. The zig-zag roof of Sligo Elementary School was featured in a previous Montgomery Modern posting.

 

The soaring rooftop of the National Library of Medicine is a hyperbolic paraboloid concrete shell, designed by O’Connor & Kilham of New York. This distinctive feature represents concerns of the Atomic Age—in the event of a nuclear bomb blast, the centralized opening was intended to provide for pressure release.

 

National Library of Medicine (1962) Wisconsin Avenue, O’Connor & Kilham Carol Highsmith photograph, from Montgomery Modern book, page 112.

National Library of Medicine (1962) Wisconsin Avenue, O’Connor & Kilham Carol Highsmith photograph, from Montgomery Modern book, page 112.

 

The folded roof feature at Green Acres School provides visual interest and brings light into the central multi-purpose room.

Green Acres School (1958) 11701 Danville Drive; Davis, Brody, Juster & Wisniewski Courtesy: Davis Brody Bond

Green Acres School (1958) 11701 Danville Drive; Davis, Brody, Juster & Wisniewski Courtesy: Davis Brody Bond

 

In the hands of modernists, the vaulted roof became a swooping, low form. On his 1959 tour of the United States, Nikita Khrushchev praised the ultra-modern design of William Wurster’s Safeway grocery store in San Francisco. The distinctive vaulted roof became a hallmark for Safeway stores, including several in Montgomery County. A well preserved example from 1962 is in the Four Corners area of Silver Spring.

 

Safeway Store, 116 W. University Boulevard, Silver Spring (1962) Carol Highsmith photograph, from Montgomery Modern book, page 95.

Safeway Store, 116 W. University Boulevard, Silver Spring (1962) Carol Highsmith photograph, from Montgomery Modern book, page 95.

 

The A-frame roof was popular for weekend retreats, as well as churches and pancake restaurants. Still standing are A-frame International House of Pancakes (IHOP) restaurants in Takoma Park (1966) and Wheaton (1970).

 

The Washington Post, August 2, 1969

The Washington Post, August 2, 1969

 

An influential A-frame church design was Pietro Belluschi’s 1954 Church of the Redeemer in Baltimore. Montgomery County examples followed, including Chatelain, Gauger and Nolan’s St. Dunstan’s Episcopal Church, 1958; John Samperton’s Washington Grove United Methodist Church (1958) and North Chevy Chase Christian Church (1961); and Clifton White’s St. Mary Magdalene Episcopal Church, (1962).

 

North Chevy Chase Christian Church (1961) 8814 Kensington Parkway, John S. Samperton Carol Highsmith photograph, from Montgomery Modern book, page 152.

North Chevy Chase Christian Church (1961) 8814 Kensington Parkway, John S. Samperton Carol Highsmith photograph, from Montgomery Modern book, page 152.

 

A butterfly roof rises up from the center like outstretched wings. The earliest known example of such a roof was Le Corbusier’s design for the Errazuriz House in Chile, designed in 1930. In the US, Marcel Breuer’s Geller House was built in 1945 on Long Island.1

In Montgomery County, the Burman House in Rollingwood has a 1951 butterfly-roof design by Charles Goodman. An innovative two-family example in New Hampshire Estates was built in 1952 by Polinger Construction Company.

 

Butterfly roof two-family house at 1041 Ruatan Street (1952). Architect unknown. Carol Highsmith photograph, from Montgomery Modern book, page 44

Butterfly roof two-family house at 1041 Ruatan Street (1952). Architect unknown. Carol Highsmith photograph, from Montgomery Modern book, page 44

 

The pavilion roof was a motif of the Aspen Hill Library, designed by John H. Sullivan, completed in 1967. An advantage of the modular composition is the opportunity for future expansion with additional wings.

 

Aspen Hill Library (1967), 4407 Aspen Hill Road, John H. Sullivan Carol Highsmith photograph, from Montgomery Modern book, page 171.

Aspen Hill Library (1967), 4407 Aspen Hill Road, John H. Sullivan Carol Highsmith photograph, from Montgomery Modern book, page 171.

An architectural form marking the advent of the postmodern era is shed style design that came out of the work of Charles Moore of the New Haven, CT-based architectural firm Moore, Lyndon, Turnbull, Whitaker (MLTW). The firm designed the Sea Ranch Condominium complex in Sonoma, CA, 1964. Inspired by vernacular buildings and local design traditions, with rustic paneled siding and simple detailing, shed style buildings feature a composition of single sloped roofs of varying heights, typically falling away from a central axis. A local example is the Stanley Tempchin House, which Charles Moore designed for a Bethesda art collector.

 

Stanley Tempchin House (1967), 7001 Crail Drive, Charles Moore of MLTW and Rurik Ekstrom Carol Highsmith photograph, from Montgomery Modern book, page 171.

Stanley Tempchin House (1967), 7001 Crail Drive, Charles Moore of MLTW and Rurik Ekstrom Carol Highsmith photograph, from Montgomery Modern book, page 171.

 

401 N. Frederick Avenue, Gaithersburg

401 N. Frederick Avenue, Gaithersburg

 

In recent years, modern roofs have been covered over as mid-century buildings are remodeled. The result is to obscure the important history of Montgomery County’s built landscape. And so our historic modern architecture lies dormant, awaiting a future restoration, and rediscovery of our mid-century architectural heritage.

 

Architectural historian Clare Lise Kelly is the author of the award-winning book Montgomery Modern: Modern Architecture in Montgomery County, Maryland, 1930-1979, published by the Montgomery County Planning Department in October 2015. The book includes additional information about projects mentioned above and other local examples.

 

1 Appreciation to Marni Epstein-Mervis for her discussion of butterfly roof projects at la.curbed.com

 


Montgomery Modern explores mid-century modern buildings and communities that reflect the optimistic spirit of the post-war era in Montgomery County, Maryland. From International Style office towers to Googie style stores and contemporary tract houses, Montgomery Modern celebrates the buildings, technology, and materials of the Atomic Age, from the late 1940s through the 1960s. A half century later, we now have perspective to appreciate these resources as a product of their time.

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Montgomery Modern

Accomplished modernist architect Eason Cross died on January 28, 2016. A Fellow of the American Institute of Architects, Cross was a principal of Cross & Adreon, a firm known for modernist residential developments designed to harmonize with nature. Their projects received prestigious design awards when they were first built 50 years ago, and these communities have continued to receive recognition for being outstanding places in which to live. The work of Cross & Adreon was recently featured in David Frey’s “30 Great Neighborhoods” in the current issue of Bethesda Magazine (Mar/Apr 2016) (pdf).

Cross worked seven years in the offices of prominent local architect Charles Goodman, first as draftsman and later as associate architect. In this capacity, he designed houses in Hollin Hills where he became a resident, raised a family, and was a community leader. From Goodman, Eason learned that good architecture would benefit society and he followed Goodman’s example of striving to provide well-designed housing for a broad audience. Cross had earned a Masters of Architecture from Harvard (1951), where he studied under pioneering modernist Walter Gropius, founder of the Bauhaus School.

In Montgomery County, Cross & Adreon partnered with developers Matthews-Schwartz in bringing clusters of houses designed for nature, built into wooded hillsides and often adjoined parks or streams. Notable projects include Wynkoop Court, as well as projects in Mohican Hills and Bradley Park.

 

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Wynkoop Court (1965) received an award for community design from AIA Mid-Atlantic Region and a design award from the Bethesda-Chevy Chase Chamber of Commerce. Thoughtfully sited houses stepped into the hillside are accessed by shared driveways, boardwalks, and stairways.

 

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Expansive windows bring nature into living space. Terraces and balconies extend living space into the wooded landscape.

 

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The Wynkoop Barn House model received a 1966 Homes for Better Living award in a competition sponsored by the American Institute of Architects and House & Home. The compact 2,600 sf house contained six bedrooms and three baths on a small footprint with attic and basement.

 

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House & Home wrote, “There’s a regrettable tendency in the homebuilding industry to consider unusual, interesting design the sole province of the custom-built house, and to relegate the built-for-sale house to the so-called safe category of ordinary, sales-proven design.” In presenting a design award to the Wynkoop Barn House, House & Home found proof that the two markets can overlap from the standpoint of design. House and Home featured the Wynkoop Barn House in its October 1966 issue, photographs by Warren Ballard.

 

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On Mohican Road, in Mohican Hills, Cross & Adreon designed a cluster of seven houses for a steep, wooded site adjoining a park. Houses are connected with shared driveways.

 

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The Mohican Hills Square House received a House and Home award (1966). A rustic walkway meanders between the modernist houses.

 

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The walkway connects the community with the adjacent M-NCPPC Glen Echo Heights Neighborhood Park, established in 1960. Mohican Hills sold out two weeks before the scheduled opening.

 

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The architects carefully considered vistas from houses as they situated the buildings on sloping, wooded lots. This plan shows how viewsheds were orchestrated harmoniously for neighboring houses on Wiscasset Road. Dotted lines indicate the steep topography.

 

Bradley-Park-1

Other projects include Bradley Park (1966), Whittier Boulevard, Bethesda, and Williamsburg Gardens (1974), Holbrook Lane and vicinity, Potomac. This Bradley Park model with clerestory windows won a 1967 award from AIA and House and Home.

The award-winning projects of Cross and Adreon are included in Montgomery Modern: Modern Architecture in Montgomery County, Maryland, 1930-1979. The book also includes a biographical sketch for Eason Cross in the Practitioners Appendix.

Info on Montgomery Modern initiative:
montgomeryplanning.org/montgomerymodern

Thanks to my colleague Joey Lampl who interviewed Eason Cross and consulted his papers, in her intensive research on Charles Goodman.

For more on Eason Cross, see his obituary from the Washington Post (pdf).

 


Montgomery Modern explores mid-century modern buildings and communities that reflect the optimistic spirit of the post-war era in Montgomery County, Maryland. From International Style office towers to Googie style stores and contemporary tract houses, Montgomery Modern celebrates the buildings, technology, and materials of the Atomic Age, from the late 1940s through the 1960s. A half century later, we now have perspective to appreciate these resources as a product of their time.

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Montgomery Modern

The exuberant mid-century modern design of commercial signs captures the entrepreneurial spirit of mom and pop shops that thrived during the post-World War II population boom of Montgomery County.

With loud colors and catchy shapes, the quirky signs howled for the attention of passing motorists. In recent years, the style has been dubbed Googie, after colorful California coffee shops of the day. These roadside signs are a record of the past, modern design, and the independent businesses that were staples to county residents.

 

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Sporting a tall cold beverage, the sign for Talbert’s Ice and Beverage Service advertises cold beer, dry ice, and regular ice.  The store building, at 5234 River Road in Bethesda, was built in 1946, according to tax records. Jack Talbert, a Georgetown native and duckpin bowling champion, died in 1955 at the age of 51 and his business was later sold. The business name and preserved signage reflect the family history of the company.

 

Glenmont-Arcade-11-4-11-(1)_800

 

Built in 1960, Glenmont Arcade boasts a bold geometric sign clearly visible from its knoll above Georgia Avenue, between Randolph Road and Layhill Road. Designed by Bartley & Gates, the shopping center, at 12345 Georgia Avenue, has an interior courtyard with shops, and originally had a duckpin bowling alley in the basement—now used for church services.

 

Al's-Auto-Center_Piney-Branch_CLKelly-7-27-15_800

 

The sign for Al’s Auto Center is all that remains of the business located on Piney Branch Road, West of University Blvd. The sign is enlivened by a stylized car with motorcycle and vintage lettering that decorate an oval floating above a boomerang arrow. Little is known about the business—perhaps it was a branch of the Al’s Auto Center located on Eye Stret NW by 1959.

 

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Miles Glass Company featured a glass-cutting tool on its bright neon sign mounted on the building at 8714 Piney Branch Road, later demolished. Opening in 1964, the Silver Spring location was the fourth branch for the family business that was headquartered on 4th Street Northeast. This photograph was taken in 2013.

 

MontgomeryIndustrialPark_CLKelly3-2014-(1)_800

 

Black lettering contrasts with pale masonry in the bold yet understated Montgomery Industrial Park sign. A loud design isn’t needed for businesses that don’t draw from passersby but from an established clientele, yet a splash of red directs visitors off Columbia Pike. Montgomery Industrial Park dates from 1961. One of the first businesses to open was the USI Robodyne robot factory at 12345 Columbia Pike, the subject of a previous blogpost.

 

Wheaton-Plaza_800

 

Gone but not forgotten is the whimsical sign of Wheaton Plaza. When it opened in 1960, it was the largest shopping mall in the Washington DC region. The mall was later enclosed and is now called Westfield Wheaton. This period photograph is from the Wheaton-Kensington Chamber of Commerce.

 

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The space age sign for Wellers Dry Cleaning, 8327 Fenton St, lets Fenton Street passersby know that it’s time to get your clothes dry cleaned. Dating from 1960, Weller’s was designed by local architect Ted Englehardt. For more on Weller’s see our blogpost on this Silver Spring business.

 

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Googie signage with bright colors and angled shapes transforms the Marvel Cleaners building into an advertisement. The store was built in 1967 at 13340 New Hampshire Ave, Silver Spring. Home of the National Dry Cleaning Institute which conducted research and set standards, Silver Spring appears to have a disproportionate number of dry cleaning businesses.

 

safeway-sign-wheaton-CLKelly-4-2008_800

 

Photographed in 2008, this sign was a companion to the mid-century Safeway, in Wheaton, later demolished for the new Safeway and high-rise. Still standing in Four Corners is an original vaulted-roof Safeway, at University Boulevard north of Colesville Road.

 

Anchor-Inn_Georgia-Av_CLKelly-7-27-15_800

 

The Anchor Inn restaurant opened in 1954 on Georgia Avenue at University Boulevard, in Wheaton. Though the business closed and the building was demolished in 2006, the iconic sign was retained and augmented with lettering to advertise the redevelopment.

 

LeisureWorld-globe_CLKelly-5-20-15_800

 

The landmark Leisure World globe is Montgomery County’s largest space age icon. The sphere advertises the retirement community on Georgia Avenue. Model homes at Leisure World first opened in 1965, and the complex was first occupied one year later.

For those who yearn for more on the subject of roadside signage, the Roadside America exhibit at the Henry Ford Museum features signs from across the country, and the photographs of John Margolies.

Montgomery Modern is an initiative of the Montgomery County Planning Department. A book on mid-century modern design in Montgomery County by Clare Lise Kelly is slated for publication in Fall 2015.

 


Montgomery Modern explores mid-century modern buildings and communities that reflect the optimistic spirit of the post-war era in Montgomery County, Maryland. From International Style office towers to Googie style stores and contemporary tract houses, Montgomery Modern celebrates the buildings, technology, and materials of the Atomic Age, from the late 1940s through the 1960s. A half century later, we now have perspective to appreciate these resources as a product of their time.

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Architect: Thomen and Cromar

911 Silver Spring Avenue, Silver SpringMontgomery Modern
The Montgomery Professional Building, located on Silver Spring Avenue, in downtown Silver Spring, was designed by architects Thomen and Cromar.

911SilverSpringAve_052114_CLKelly-(3)_500
The current photos in this post were taken May 21, 2014. Exactly 54 years earlier, the Washington Post published Thomen and Cromar’s proposed scheme for 911 Silver Spring Ave.

Wash-Post-5-21-1960_500

Washington Post, May 21, 1960

The rendering has a strong geometric outline that was popular in the county for architectural designs in the late 1950s.  As built, the final design has a strong vertical pylon that had become popular by 1960.  Visual interest comes from a variety of wall surfaces of stone, concrete, and brick.  The pylon, bearing lettering with the building name, is sheathed with thin bands of ashlar stone.

911SilverSpringAve_052114_CLKelly-(8)_500

To the left of the entrance, walls are sheathed with textured panels.  The material appears to be Tecfab panels.  Charles Goodman designed Tecfab panels which were manufactured in Greenbelt and are found on churches, schools and commercial buildings through the region.  For more on Tecfab panels, see my research report on the Georgia Avenue Baptist Church of Glenmont.

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Extending out from the entrance, in front of the Tecfab panel facade, are low walls of concrete screen blocks that have a lively geometric pattern.

 

911SilverSpringAve_052114_CLKelly-(15)_500 911SilverSpringAve_052114_CLKelly-(5)_500

Thomen and Cromar were local architects.  So local in fact their office was directly behind the Montgomery Professional Building. Thomen and Cromar had designed their own office building at 912 Thayer Avenue the previous year (1959).  Other projects the firm designed include Regent House (1958) Cleveland Park; Channel House (1960) Foggy Bottom, now the George Washington University Inn; and Kenwood House (1960) Chevy Chase.

 

Addendum

Jerry McCoy of the Silver Spring Historical Society sends us this photo with the architect’s signature brick on the front façade of this building.  Thanks Jerry!

brick1b

 


Montgomery Modern explores mid-century modern buildings and communities that reflect the optimistic spirit of the post-war era in Montgomery County, Maryland. From International Style office towers to Googie style stores and contemporary tract houses, Montgomery Modern celebrates the buildings, technology, and materials of the Atomic Age, from the late 1940s through the 1960s. A half century later, we now have perspective to appreciate these resources as a product of their time.

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PopularElectronicsMay1963

Popular Electronics, May 1963

Robots in Silver Spring

Montgomery ModernWho knew? Silver Spring was home to a pioneering robot. The TransfeRobot was an early standardized, off-the-shelf programmable robot, developed in 1958 and offered for sale in 1959. U. S. Industries started making the robots at 949 Bonifant Ave (more on that later).  The firm quickly outgrew that building and moved out to the new Montgomery Industrial Park.

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The sleek, modern building at 12345 Columbia Pike was designed in 1960 (architect unknown) and opened for production in 1961.  It was originally called the USI Automation Center, and was operated by the Robodyne Division of USI. This is the front façade of the headhouse that faces Columbia Pike.

Automation-Center

The TransfeRobot 200 could perform adaptable, repetitive tasks that made it ideal for assembly lines. This 50-lb robot sold for $2,500.  By 1959, USI had contracts with General Electric, General Motors and Centralab.

1962 Display Ad NYT

In 1962, the company sold 100,000 of the TransfeRobot 200.  U. S. Industries by then had 15 divisions and subsidiaries, and made a $3 million profit.

The USI Robodyne Automation Center, 12345 Columbia Pike, has louvered panels that bring light and air into graveled recessed spaces flanking the front vestibule. The building has a high level of architectural

The USI Robodyne Automation Center, 12345 Columbia Pike, has louvered panels that bring light and air into graveled recessed spaces flanking the front vestibule. The building has a high level of architectural integrity.

Door handles

The doors on the main entrance retain stylish modern handles.

The front foyer is lit by a glass wall looking out to an interior courtyard.

The front foyer is lit by a glass wall looking out to an interior courtyard.

Windows are highlighted by prefabricated Tecfab type panels. The education wing of the recently designated Georgia Avenue Baptist Church has similar panels that date from 1962. The panels were developed by architect Charles Goodman.

Windows are highlighted by prefabricated Tecfab type panels. The education wing of the recently designated Georgia Avenue Baptist Church has similar panels that date from 1962. The panels were developed by architect Charles Goodman.

Attached to the headhouse is the factory building that extends along Industrial Drive. The red spandrel panels here echo those found in the interior courtyard..

Attached to the headhouse is the factory building that extends along Industrial Drive. The red spandrel panels here echo those found in the interior courtyard..

Attached to the headhouse is the factory building that extends along Industrial Drive. The red spandrel panels here echo those found in the interior courtyard.. The Automation Center opened in 1961 at the newly established Industrial Park on Columbia Pike. The original modern sign is a testament to the mid-century origins of this complex.

The Automation Center opened in 1961 at the newly established Industrial Park on Columbia Pike. The original modern sign is a testament to the mid-century origins of this complex.


Montgomery Modern explores mid-century modern buildings and communities that reflect the optimistic spirit of the post-war era in Montgomery County, Maryland. From International Style office towers to Googie style stores and contemporary tract houses, Montgomery Modern celebrates the buildings, technology, and materials of the Atomic Age, from the late 1940s through the 1960s. A half century later, we now have perspective to appreciate these resources as a product of their time.

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This past Saturday, the Montgomery County Planning Department and the Potomac Chapter of the American Institute of Architects participated in the nationwide docomomo event by sponsoring a tour of some of Montgomery County’s mid-century modern buildings.

Geico's suburban campus in Friendship Heights

Geico’s suburban campus in Friendship Heights

The tour began at GEICO, where the soft, sweeping lines of the Victor Kling campus contrast with the rectilinear facades and composition of buildings. Across the street, The Irene apartment building displays the same rectilinear façade patterns. The neighborhoods of Potomac Overlook and Glen Echo Heights tucked their glass-walled homes amid the natural landscape, capturing views and light.

Many tour-goers thought the highlight was a visit to the Seymour Krieger House, designed by internationally recognized architect, Marcel Breuer. Breuer’s work on this house, delicately placed on its site, contrasts with his most notable buildings, the HUD headquarters in downtown Washington and the Whitney Museum in New York City.

The tour continued with lunch at the River Road Unitarian Church, designed by Keyes, Lethbrdige & Condon, a local firm that was instrumental in bring modern design to the Washington region.

light and shadow create drama

light and shadow create drama

Keyes, Lethbridge & Condon also designed the houses in Carderock Springs, a neighborhood listed on the National Register for its natural landscape, and unified design aesthetic.

All of the buildings—residential, commercial, and institutional—share the modernist approach to building: an emphasis on space rather than mass, balance rather than symmetry. In the Washington region, many of these post-war buildings were built in the suburbs. New open-plan homes were designed for servant-less households, filled with light, and placed in un-manicured landscapes. For businesses and institutions, modernist architecture conveyed an up-to-date attitude. They are emblematic of suburbanization in the post-war era and their siting and architectural elements influenced buildings of the time.

It’s too easy to relegate history to the distant past, but it is often the resources right around the corner that are overlooked. The Department of the Interior has wisely set up guidelines to allow buildings at least 50 years old to be considered historic. For those of us eligible for AARP membership, that can be hard to take, but don’t we all want to be appreciated for our fine lines and elegant posture?

We were grateful for the beautiful weather; and thankful to our partner, AIA Potomac Valley ; our sponsor Konst for their generous support; our enthusiastic tour-goers; and our gracious hosts.

 

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I like to revisit posts I have done. Not long ago I wrote about putting a value on historic preservation. Three recent developments bring me back to the subject. First, the Historic Preservation Commission recently approved 39 applications for the county’s historic preservation tax credits. The 39 projects represent nearly $1.5 million in private investment in historic properties in communities across the county. This is a good thing. As discussed in the previous post, money spent on historic preservation projects demonstrates a strong multiplier effect, making investments in historic rehabilitation particularly beneficial for local economics, jobs and businesses. The number of tax credit projects also bears note. The 39 projects represent perhaps a quarter, or less, of the projects that were eligible for tax credits this past year. This is a bad thing. This number is way too low. Clearly we need to be doing more to make people aware of the credits. We want to encourage more investment in our historic buildings, so both property owners and the county will benefit. Making more people aware of the tax advantages of historic preservation is one way to do this. We are trying, and we would appreciate your ideas on creative ways to reach people.

 

Property owners can receive a 25% tax credit for work on their historic property.

Property owners can receive a 25% tax credit for work on their historic property.

This brings me to the second development. The County recently enacted a bill increasing the county rehabilitation tax credits to 25 percent, up from 10 percent. 25 percent. This is a huge incentive, and benefit, for owners of historic properties. How’s that for encouragement? We hope that more people will take advantage of the 25 percent credit by investing in their historic properties, thereby strengthening Montgomery County’s economy.

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State and federal historic preservation tax credit programs can extend the benefit of county tax credits.

 

Against this backdrop of the economic benefits of preservation tax credits, I turn last to the extraordinarily effective federal historic preservation tax credit program, which is currently threatened by the broader debate over tax reform. Although not widely used in Montgomery County, federal historic preservation tax credits (along with state and county credits) have contributed to the viability of a handful of projects, including the redevelopment of the National Park Seminary, widely regarded as one of the most important historic preservation and community development projects in Maryland. The National Park Seminary project put the long vacant and derelict property back on the tax rolls with nearly 300 housing units, saving a remarkable historic resource in the process. It is hard for me to understand how getting rid of the federal historic preservation tax credit program could be called reform, particularly when you look at the numbers.

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for an idea who’s time has come.

Slate magainze recently posted an article about the efficiences of bus rapid transit, noting that its success lies in addressing some of the frustrating things about riding the bus–getting stuck in traffic, getting stuck behind fellow riders, getting stuck in the rain.

But the author points out that dedicated lanes, proof-of-payment systems, and station infrastrcuture can combine to make bus travel efficient and appealing. While the Planning Board’s Countywide Transit Corridors Functional Master Plan doesn’t go into detail about how you’ll buy your bus ticket, it is an important step toward maximinzing the use of our existing roadways, establishing initial standards for routes and stations, and ensuring that everyone can travel around the County and the region.

There’s more opportunity for discussion at the County Council’s public hearing, scheduled for September 24 and 26.

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mix it up and walk aorund. The ice cream cone is right downstairs!

Depending on your media preferences, you may have heard about a new book by the Brookings Institute, The Metropolitan Revolution.

In it, authors Bruce Katz and Jennifer Bradley postulate that with the Federal government in partisan gridlock and facing the costs of caring for an aging population, large infrastructure, education, and economic investments are taking place in America’s metropolitan areas through coalitions of local government, business, labor, philanthropic, and education leaders.

In an NPR interview, Katz makes the point that as the economy changes so does American geography. From the primacy of port cities to swaths of industrial acreage, each economy has its spatial geography. Katz says the new digital economy that seeks interaction to create innovation is locating in downtowns and midtowns, a pattern reinforced by the lifestyle of the millenial generation who prefer choice in where they live and work–perhaps living without a car or a backyard. For example, Zappos relocated to downtown Las Vegas and Twitter is in San Francisco, not Irvine.

It’s a pattern mirrored in Montgomery County planning efforts. The zoning rewrite, the Countywide Transit Corridor Plan (and the CCT and Purple Line), and redevelopment of central business districts all are responses to changing demands and economy.

 

 

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Roads, parking garages, even trails rarely have the urban glamour of Italian hill towns, grand plazas, or museums and symphony halls. For many planners and architects, they are the unfortunate necessities that make a place work and are often treated accordingly.

But as this article in Better Cities and Towns shows, infrastructure can add drama to the urban profile and fun to daily life. What particulalry got me interested in the topic was looking at how we talk about parking garages. The only solution appears to be hiding them, screening them, making them look like something else. While some of these examples in Miami are truly extraordinary, more of them are replicable and through their design, location, and tenanting, add real value to the community.

It’s about infrastructure doing double-duty–parking garages reinvigorating neighborhoods, street improvements addressing water quality, and bikeshare adding a commuting option and fun.

 

The "Ballet Valet" garage by Arquitectonica, that started it all

The “Ballet Valet” garage by Arquitectonica, that started it all

Frank Gehry's public garage serves Lincoln Road shoppers and symphony goers

Frank Gehry’s public garage serves Lincoln Road shoppers and symphony goers