A new preservation credo

Posted: by

About fifty people attended an open house at the Planning Department last weekend. Of all the intelligent questions and interesting conversations I had with people who stopped at the historic preservation station, my favorite was with an elementary school-aged girl who came in with her mom and younger brother. Our conversation went something like this.

I asked if the girl if knew what historic preservation was. She shrugged. I pointed to a display with photos of some old buildings, including a house in Takoma Park that had been abandoned and condemned but has recently been rehabilitated, sold, and is again lived in. She offered that preservation was about saving old buildings. Then I asked if she knew why historic … Continue reading

Small Pieces of Big Streets

Posted: by

The District’s plan for eco-friendly redevelopment in Southwest Washington is a big one, but M-NCPPC environmental planner Tina Schneider points out that one of the plan’s small elements could apply in Montgomery County.

Alternating tree panels with stormwater panels is a way to slow and filter run-off while enhancing streetscape. The County requires stormwater management treatment, but it’s often easiest to use methods that have already recieved approval than to try something new. And, let’s admit it, there’s a lot of competition for the limited right-of way space. We want to make room for bicycles, streetscaped sidewalks, and–oh yeah–cars. It can also be a challenge to thread a new drainage path among existing underground infrastructure.

But other places have managed it–you … Continue reading

A New Generation of Malls Track Downtown, Again

Posted: by

We grew up as planners learning that shopping malls sapped downtown of its energy–whether it was small town retailers wiped out by the mall just over the county line or urban retail boulevards gutted of life as suburbanites left the city to follow jobs and the shopping followed them.

Over time, downtowns began to reimage themselves as malls. Beginning in 1980, The National Trust for Historic Preservation’s Main Street program was based on that very premise, organizing disparate retailers to work together on signage, opening hours, seasonal sales, and marketing.

Federal Realty took it one step further, simply buying up retail streets in places like Westport, Connecticut and Bethesda, Maryland to create a single, curated retail environment from brick … Continue reading

A new(ish) Park in DC

Posted: by

The Yards Park has already won a list of awards, but I’ve just discovered it.

I can see why it’s won awards–there are so many things I love about it–the variety of spaces, the classic Holly Whyte bits of urbanism (movable chairs, touchable water, something to eat, people to watch), and its connections, running from Diamond Teague Park at National’s Stadium and through the Navy Yard, with a few bikeshare docks along the way.






Walkable Communities vs a Walk-in Closet

Posted: by

Suburbs have always been an indicator of economic status. If you lived in them, you were wealthy enough to take on a mortgage, maintain a house and yard, and eventually own and maintain one or even two cars.

At some point, that shifted. Living in the city and maintaining a middle class lifestyle took an upper class income. Limited attractive neighborhoods and buildings cost a premium. And if local schools and services were not up to par you needed to pay tuition and fees.

Now, according to Christopher Leinberger and Mariela Alfonzo in the New York Times, a larger number of city neighborhoods are outstripping the suburbs in desirability and thus in per square foot value. Their recent report finds that walkable … Continue reading

MontgomeryModern: discover Mid-Century Modern buildings during Preservation Month

Posted: by

If you read my previous post for Historic Preservation Month, you know that in picking a theme for this year’s Preservation Month, the National Trust for Historic Preservation issued a challenge to people in communities across the country to discover hidden gems and celebrate local historic resources.  Montgomery County historic preservation planners responded by preparing a list of historic resources we hope you will discover.

While Preservation Month has become a fun annual event to raise awareness and celebrate historic preservation nation-wide, our exploration of the county’s historic resources will continue long after we turn the page on May. Our efforts have led us to look beyond what many people recognize as historic, and to start thinking about buildings … Continue reading

What Does the Future Look Like?

Posted: by

According to a report on NPR, population worldwide is moving to cities. This is not a new trend; cities have always been centers of opportunity, but now that population threatens to overwhelm capacity it is more important than ever to build them right.

While some countries are building new cities from scratch, places that will “win” are those that already have infrastructure and are making best use of it. As Harriet Tregoning, D.C.’s planning chief pointed out at a panel discussion at the National Building Museum, even in this recent recession, communities that did best were those that are “dense, mixed-use places.”

As part of the Washington metropolitan area, Montgomery County has long recognized that it faces a growing … Continue reading

Discover Montgomery County’s Historic Gems

Posted: by

Guest post: Scott Whipple

May is National Preservation Month and this year’s theme, “Discover America’s Hidden Gems”, got me thinking about Montgomery County’s rich collection of historic places.

Montgomery County has 430 sites and 22 districts designated in the County’s Master Plan for Historic Preservation. More are identified in the Locational Atlas and Index of Historic Sites in Montgomery County. And more still are waiting to be identified and investigated.

Historic and architectural gems we have. But hidden? In a county just outside the nation’s capital, with a population rapidly approaching a million people, it is hard to think of much as being hidden. Whether or not we live or work in a historic building, most of us encounter historic buildings or landscapes … Continue reading

Take a Walk

Posted: by

Or try to. That’s the message of Tom Vanderbilt’s series this week on Slate about pedestrians–or without the perjorative that he points out–people walking.

He makes a point that’s long frustrated me. Sooner or later, we all walk, even if it’s only from the parking lot to the mall. Something inside us loves to stroll. What is a mall if not a re-creation of an urban boulevard and witness the success of retail neo-main streets.

But we spend so little of our time, money, and thought on establishing and securing pedestrian environments. Even the fact that I describe it as a “pedestrian environment,” as a place apart and separate, rather than woven through our lives and communties–speaks to our separation … Continue reading

Mid-Century Architecture Gets its Due

Posted: by

Guest post by Scott Whipple

The Washington Post’s “Where We Live” blog recently featured Washington area mid-century architecture (Washington’s mid-century modern neighborhoods | Washington’s mid-century modern neighborhoods, part 2), making mention of a number of Montgomery County’s recent past resources — including the Rock Creek Woods, Hammond Wood, and Carderock Springs National Register historic districts.

As Amanda Abrams writes in the first post, “I’ve found that once I look for them, I start seeing modernist communities everywhere.” We expect to be seeing more mid-century resources, too. So we’ve started the MontgomeryModern initiative to explore our county’s mid-century architectural history. We share the excitement about this architecture that Michael Shapiro mentions in his post, and we hope you will come … Continue reading