Placemaking Presentation Focuses on the Details

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Seattle-based consultant Paula Rees shares her experiences in enriching real estate developments with art and design “It’s all in the combination of great details,” said Paula Rees, principal of the Seattle-based firm Foreseer, while revealing her secrets to placemaking to a large audience at the Montgomery County Planning Department. Rees showed image after image of public artworks, quirky signage, “tattooed” facades and inviting storefronts to demonstrate her points. Her lively projects at Pike and Rose in North Bethesda, Santana Row in San Jose, Assembly Row in Boston and other locations were part of an inspiring presentation that drew a standing-room-only crowd to the Planning Department’s auditorium on December 2. Rees started her talk with a basic definition of place as… Read more »

Superblocks in Palm Beach

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On a busman’s holiday, I had a chance to bicyle around Palm Beach and noticed that, not surprisingly, the one percent get some pretty nice urban design. But what is surprising is that whether you’re in the one percent or the 99 percent, the bones are the same. Palm Beach’s Worth Avenue was created very much the way Federal Realty does a Bethesda Avenue or Foulger Pratt does an Ellsworth Avenue. Worth Avenue, Bethesda Avenue, and Ellsworth Avenue are all parallel or perpendicular to the main traffic artery. You get onto Palm Beach island via Royal Palm Way, a spectacularly landscaped boulevard with green median and four travel lanes. But make no mistake, shopping and strolling are a few blocks to the… Read more »

Beauty and the Eye of the Beholder

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Everyone has an opinion about the new fountain at what people consider the “town square” of Bethesda–the plaza in front of Barnes & Noble Bookstore.   As reported online in the Bethesda Patch most of the commenters think it was at best unecessary and at worst, a scheme to keep people from sitting out in front of the store. You can chime in as well by voting online. Unfortunately, out of 209 votes so far, 121 people (57%) don’t like it. This is not a Bethesda phenomenon. In fact, just last week, the New York Times reported that Portland, Maine has removed a sculpture called Tracing the Fore. The article quotes Shawn McCarthy, who owns the bar across the street from… Read more »

Food Trucks Redux

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The food truck phenomenon has reached Silver Spring, enlivening a paved corner of the downtown’s 100 percent intersection with the flavors of West Africa. In previous posts, we talked about how cities are using the food truck movement to contribute street life to parking lots and to create low investment, diverse businesses. Chez Dikel, parked at the gas station at the corner of Colesville and Georgia, is dishing up delicious home cooking from Mali to repeat customers from the Discovery Building and other workers in the CBD (including the planning department). The peppery Yassa Chicken is a special Malian dish, the spicy ginger water will cure the worst cold, and the homemade hot sauce will take care of any lingering… Read more »

MRO’s Own Edible Estate

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Tina Schneider, who works in Park and Planning’s Environmental Division, was talking with Planning Director Rollin Stanley about ways to “green” our site. They came up with a number of ideas, which will become our sustainable landscape plan, that include a few bee hives on the roof (starting in mid-May) and turning our flower beds into a vegetable garden rather than planting and replanting them with annuals through the season. About a dozen employees (from neophytes to experts) have volunteered to help design, plant, maintain, and harvest the garden. Today, Mohammed Turay’s crew of the Parks Department generously got us started by removing the mulch, tilling the soil, and adding some amendments. We’ll have the soil tested this week and… Read more »

NoLib on a Saturday

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Elza’s planners intution was correct. On a Saturday morning (even a cold and early one), Northern Liberties has more life. What struck me about the space was the very fine relationship between buildings–entrances and exits are evident but not obvious, the apartments are close enough to oversee the space, but still have privacy. This kind of deliberate use of space is the hallmark of an urban environment. In the suburbs, where land has been plentiful, it is rarely part of the design. There’s no reason a suburban parking lot or superblock couldn’t be redeveloped with this degree of refinement, it just never seems necessary when we spend most of our time in our cars.