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Via Fast Company Portland has long been one of the most celebrated cities in terms of planning and sustainability. Peter Calthorpe is one of the original pioneers of transit-oriented development. In this video, Calthorpe does a nice job of succinctly laying out the principles of transit-oriented development, namely walkability and diversity of population and land use.

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Earlier this winter, the New York Times ran an article on a CEO’s for Cities study revealing a substantial premium on home sale prices in areas with an above average Walkscore, the informative, if simplistic online measurement tool that ranks neighborhood “walkability” based on proximity to community services and amenities. According to the study, for every additional Walkscore point a neighborhood earns, home prices increase by $700 and $3,000. On average, highly walkable homes sold for $4,000 to $38,000 more than their auto-centric competition. This past weekend, I attempted to use Walkscore in conjunction with Zillow.com to (at least loosely) confirm the study’s findings for Montgomery County. While zip-code data gave a soft nod in the affirmative, I couldn’t find data fine-grained… Read more »

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On the rare occasions that the words “architectural character” and “Fenton Village” are used in the same sentence, they are usually also joined by the words “lack”, “dearth”, and “paucity” (ADMIT IT!).  (For the uninitiated, the Fenton Village is centered one block east of Georgia Avenue in Silver Spring, north of the train tracks.)   These exclamations are not without foundation: Silver Spring Towers, Safeway, and 8120 Fenton Street are not doing the street any favors.  Nor do the converted and expiring bungalows and four-squares suggest a Village with a unique character (cf. Forest Hills Gardens, et. al). But the dedicated observer (thank you!) will notice that, scattered about its ten or twelve blocks, Fenton Village has many buildings that… Read more »

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Los Angeles continues to encourage a street food scene with a street food fest. And though conflicts are bound to arise, there are ways to deal with them.

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After months of study and deliberation, New York City has decided to make its pedestrian-priority spaces a permanent fixture on sections of Broadway around Times and Herald Squares. The decision to keep the revised street plan, which had been operating under trial review since last summer, came despite vehicle travel times falling short of projected improvements. The plan was originally sold on the basis that it would improve vehicle flow by 17%. It improved 7%. More importantly, the roadway enhancements vastly improved pedestrian and motorist safety. According the City’s Department of Transportation, pedestrian injuries are down 35% while motorist and passenger injuries decreased 63%. And 80% fewer pedestrians are walking in the streets despite increased usage of Times and Herald Squares, ostensibly due to less… Read more »

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Before moving to the DC area two years ago, I had lived in New York City for the previous 18 . Never owned a car there (or a local driver’s license!),and it wasn’t until I relocated here that I realized how effortless it was to live a pedestrian life there…Stores were abundant and usually well stocked; restaurants, museums, and galleries were everywhere (…mostly frequented by tourists that we locals had to put up with); and in general whatever you needed ), was at your disposal 24 hours a day. It’s been a bit of a struggle for me to sustain a similar pedestrian life here. I am still coming to terms with giving up an almost zero carbon footprint to… Read more »

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Tacking onto Elza’s post on Silver Spring’s future form, I came across this building a few weeks ago and couldn’t help but think of Fenton Village. It’s cheerful, gritty, and almost certainly would feel at home in a neighborhood that already boasts an array of colors, from the similarly red Pyramid Atlantic to the tastefully pink Jackie’s Restaurant. And while the Burnside Rocket may seem to offer little in the way of architectural distinction other than a few eccentric shutters painted by local artists (which I think are quite neat), between its crimson painted walls is a powerhouse at work. The LEED-Platinum certified structure is built both to last, approximately 300 years according to the project’s website, and operate efficiently…. Read more »

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Mohamed Elrafal is a native of Egypt and a former antiques dealer who runs the Ali Baba Falafel cart at the Bethesda Farm Women’s Market. By allowing a complementary use to lease space, the market gains income to stay viable in the midst of redevelopment (the market is zoned CBD-1). Elrafal serves falafel, gyro, and his mother’s recipe for ful medames, a traditional Egyptian street food of stewed fava beans that is so good, it will make you rethink your relationship to legumes. The guy is really cooking. His falafel is spiced with whole cardamom seeds and accompanied by distinctly seasoned red cabbage, banana peppers, and vinegary lettuce. It’s wrapped in a thinner pita than the gyros, which get a… Read more »

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DC-based Division1 Architects are stepping up with some cool contemporary design on the Avenue in Silver Spring. Their ALC, Inc., headquarters building at the corner of Georgia Avenue and Ripley Street (just a few doors down from the new home of Joe’s Record Paradise!) transforms a shuttered Italianate-ish pawn brokerage into a multi-layered bit-of-the-other, with planes and masses sliding along and above each other and peek-a-boo window slot. The use of the wood slats brings warmth to the crisp white brick and dark slate and adds a new color (no disrespect to the meineke or Pyramid Atlantic!) to the maroons and grays of the district. As it moves deeper into Ripley Street, the building also features the best addition to… Read more »

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One of the most fascinating pieces of public art in Silver Spring is “Coastline,” a sculpted water feature by Jim Sanborn, which is tucked into the plaza near the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration at 1301 East-West Highway. For those who know it is there – mostly office workers from the surrounding complex – it is a wonderful place to relax during lunch or coffee breaks. And the lucky kids who come across the piece are transfixed by the threat and prospect of being hit by the spray of the surf. The sculpture: A large, pneumatically activated pool that sends waves crashing into stacked, sculpted red granite, creating an intense sound and sense of dynamism to which most water features… Read more »