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And I hardly know what to make of this. Did someone redefine cool or cities or  Bethesda? And as one commenter on Bethesda Patch noted, Baltimore ranked 14, just beating Bethesda at 17. Cool is subjective, and (she says snarkily) is the measure of cool the number of  hipster pickle makers per loft? By the way, Brooklyn, which seems to be the epicenter of cool hipster pickle-makers, did not make the list. Though I suppose it was subsumed into the NYC-White Plains-Wayne (NJ) census mess. And moving on from snark to bureaucratic nerdiness, Bethesda is not a city or even a town. It’s an unicorporated place that can leap perceptual boundaries whenever a realtor needs to gin up another suburban… Read more »

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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 pavers… Read more »

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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.          

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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 places… Read more »

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Yesterday the Planning Board discussed a draft Park, Recreation and Open Space Plan (PROS Plan) that lays out a strategy to ensure access to open space for County residents: The purpose of the 2012 PROS Plan is to estimate the future needs for park and recreation facilities and natural, historic and agricultural resource preservation and to develop specific service delivery strategies to meet future needs through the year 2022 and beyond. This broad-ranging Plan covers traditional park and trail facilities on public and private land, but also delves into preservation and enhancement of historic, cultural, and agricultural resources. Like the recently created Parkscore system established by the Trust for Public Land, important parts of the PROS Plan are establishing: a… Read more »

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MontgomeryModern 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, MontgomeryModern 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.   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… Read more »

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What a fun toy!  Mapnificent shows you how far you can travel on transit from any address for several cities around the world. You can choose the travel time along a sliding bar and choose specific addresses or drag a pin on the map around.  Here’s the blob from the Planning Department’s address set at 30 minutes: I was able to quickly look at Chicago and Philadelphia, two cities I’ll be visiting soon, and the times looked about like I’ve experienced before (as does Silver Spring’s).  Nothing for Providence, another city I’ll be visiting this summer, although I know RIPTA has a decent system. Maybe more soon. More info and examples were posted on The Atlantic Cities site.

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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 population,… Read more »

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I have a confession: i don’t own a bike. The bus and metro are a bit too convenient for me. And with DC’s Bikeshare program and the soon to come Silver Spring program, why would I need one? (And we’re beginning to reserve spaces on land in White Flint.) With a grant in place and plans under way, the first project to propose a bikeshare station with integrated public art, Fenwick Station (on the corner of Second Avenue and Spring Street), was reviewed by the Planning Board on April 26. This is just in time for national bike month! So maybe we can give DC, named the 6th most bikeable city by walkscore.com, a run (ride?) for their money. And… Read more »

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On a recent trip to Savannah, we not only had a wonderful time – we learned a few unexpected things. There’s more to the city than the beautiful downtown (with omnipresent SCAD buildings), there’s the economy built on an infrastructure that allows Savannah to be the fourth busiest port in the country (according to our boat tour guide) linked to an extensive heavy rail system. And evidence was obvious on the river – even from the window of the restaurant where we had lunch one day. Transit, however, is generally absent; the free Downtown Transportation (DOT) bus is fine, but it covers an area that’s easy enough to walk. MoCo’s economy seems more diverse than Savannah’s, but is becoming focused… Read more »