This Thursday, the Planning Board will review the County’s DHCA plans to upgrade the 25-year old streetscaping along Georgia Avenue between Selim Street and Silver Spring Avenue. The goals are to meet ADA standards and to install new soil panels that will help street trees reach full maturity.
But it’s more than a matter of setting in a few bricks and new trees. The design of the sidewalk space and its elements has to mediate among the needs of all users. Business owners want trees that don’t obscure their storefronts and signs. Curb edges and varied paving materials can hold up wheelchair users but can help blind pedestrians navigate. Agencies undertaking the work, trying to make the most out of taxpayers’ money, are looking for effective project coordination and maintenance.
The staff report’s recommendations address these sometimes conflicting needs. The proposed brick pavers will be set on a concrete base, “glued” in place with asphalt and finished with sand between the joints to create a surface with a minimal amount of heaves. It’s a technique that has worked well in the Bethesda CBD. The brick itself is has been updated by the manufacturer with a slightly rough surface that is less slippery for pedestrians but still smooth for wheels.
The new trees, American and Lacebark Elms have proven to be hardy street trees. Their high branching pattern will keep storefronts visible and the proposed amended soil panel will give them a fighting chance to develop a full canopy.
Coordination has been extensive on this project. DHCA has worked with Silver Spring citizens, property owners and Planning staff. The Planning Board’s review will give citizens another chance to be heard.