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On Housing

A report from the Brookings Institution: restrictive (read, “exclusionary”) zoning may lead to lower test scores for kids.

“As the nation grapples with the growing gap between rich and poor and an economy increasingly reliant on formal education, public policies should address housing market regulations that prohibit all but the very affluent from enrolling their children in high-scoring public schools in order to promote individual social mobility and broader economic security.”


An analysis by US Today shows the recession accelerated trends towards urbanization.

“The shift to more urban housing development has been growing slowly during the past couple of decades and thanks to the recession and housing crash, this trend has accelerated. It is probable … Continue reading

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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

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guest post by Larry Cole

On April 24, the Prince George’s County Council passed a law that requires developers to make improvements for pedestrians and bicyclists to ensure adequate public pedestrian and bikeway facilities in County Centers and Corridors.

The Washington Post article, “Prince George’s Backs Plan to ease the way of pedestrians and cyclists,” on this progressive measure, however, does not fully portray similar measures already in place in Montgomery County to improve the environment for pedestrians, bicyclists, transit riders and trail users. Montgomery County has had similar requirements for developers for almost a decade, and has moved on multiple fronts to further strengthen measures to achieve a pedestrian, bicyclist, and transit-friendly and accessible environment.

With each … Continue reading

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While we’re sitting here writing plans, guerilla urbanists are on the streets, identifying what they love about their communities.

The Walk Your City Kickstarter project will provide open source access to crisply designed signs that can be zip tied to telephone poles to encourage people to walk. As the signs point out, if it’s only a seven minute walk to a local park, why not?

The project has gotten a lot of media attention (fat, lazy Americans, etc.) but beyond addressing the surface problem–where to go and how to get there–the signs open a larger discussion of what is valuable in a community. What places are we proud of? What does it really take to make … Continue reading

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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

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This article has been corrected with two facts: the exterior panels are glass, not porcelain, and in the summer of 2012, the horizontal band over the parking lot entrance was taken down for construction of 8711 Georgia Avenue. Thanks to readers for your comments. Clare Lise Kelly 9-12-12

Designed by architect Edwin Weihe in 1960, the American National Bank Building, at 8701 Georgia Avenue, is a fine example of an International style office building. When it opened in 1961, it was the tallest building in Silver Spring and featured several design innovations.


Architect Edwin Weihe placed the building’s heating, cooling, and elevator equipment in a low roof penthouse, designed so that it is not immediately apparent from the streetview. … Continue reading

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Developers in D.C. are proposing a “pop-up” restaurant on a vacant U Street lot that would be constructed out of shipping containers and there are a lot of good questions about whether this is a good or bad thing. Online commenters wonder whether this is cool urbanism or just a descent into third world, make-do architecture.

Looking at other examples, in London and New York, it seems these are a retail opportunity for branding,  and by-the-way, an urban pheonmenon. London’s very cool Shoreditch box park describes itself as “low-cost, low-risk, unique, and flexible,” meant to draw tenants like local artists and artisanal manufacturers.

At New York’s Dekalb Market, tenants are a roster of hipster cliches from an excessive number of … Continue reading

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It’s not news that the suburbs are changing. Mom works, Dad may be at home, and kids, when they’re not strapped into their car seats, are scheduled  to the max.

But there are other changes as well, as documented in this Washington Post interactive map tracking racial changes in the ‘burbs. The map allows you to see the mix of people in the region as well as in various census tracts.

It also shows change since 1990, and not surprisingly, some places change very little. The quick pattern I see is that most tracts are less exclusively white than they used to be, but overall patterns in the region are the same.

As the Post points out, it’s still … Continue reading

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American Century types like to complain that this country doesn’t make anything anymore or if we do it’s artisanal cheese and not steel. But as this article points out, that cheese or other basement production is often where the big stuff starts. How can we forget Apple’s garage beginnings.

So if economies are shifting, at least in some small way, to local production and services, are our communities able to accomodate new jobs?

According to Mike Pyatok, interviewed in Better Cities and Towns, “Most planning regulations are based on the Euclidean model that separates cities into zones accommodating a single use, which true live-work is decidedly not.”

While Pyatok is pointing out that the rules of subsidized housing preclude small scale economic ventures, … Continue reading

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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