Montgomery County Needs ‘Cookie Cutter’ Urban Design to ‘bake’ a Better Future

Posted by & filed under Architecture, Design.

By Todd Fawley-King and Atul Sharma

Introduction

You’ve probably heard someone criticize a neighborhood or shopping area as “cookie cutter.” This description, often used to identify construction that has standardized or repetitive features, usually implies the buildings lack character and will diminish their surroundings. There is a lot to like about “cookie-cutter” construction; sameness can be enriching, and this type of design can help build great places quickly and affordably.

Good cookie-cutter design is ingrained in the urban fabric of America, enabling the rapid settlement and expansion of the United States. In New England the repeated “cookie” is the 6-by-6 mile square township administered by a central village. These townships were organized around the quintessential church, meeting house, and … Continue reading

In COVID-19’s Shadow: 8 Predictions On How the Virus Could Reshape Our Daily Lives Even After We Find a Vaccine

Posted by & filed under Design.

Written by Jesse Cohn & Eli Glazier

There’s not doubt that over the past few months, the COVID-19 pandemic has drastically changed the way that we live, work, play and travel. However, some of these short-term impacts of the pandemic may extend into the future for years to come, long after we find a vaccine.

Experts and practitioners in transportation, real estate, economics, public health and other disciplines have shared their initial predictions of what life will look like in the wake of COVID-19.

And as planners who must prepare for these potential long-term changes and adapt accordingly, we have been listening closely. A core group of us at Montgomery Planning have spent the past few months reviewing recent … Continue reading

The Edward U. Taylor Elementary School

Posted by & filed under Places.

A once-segregated public school can teach future generations about an important chapter in county history

By: Kacy Rohn and John Liebertz

Locally designated African American historic sites around Montgomery County highlight the central role of African Americans in the story of the county and the nation. These sites include places where free and formerly enslaved African Americans lived, worked, worshipped, and buried their loved ones throughout the county.

Another site may soon be designated. Montgomery County Historic Preservation staff are considering whether the former Edward U. Taylor Elementary School in Boyds should be added to the county’s Master Plan for Historic Preservation. The recently approved and adopted MARC Rail Communities Sector Plan recognized the school as a neighborhood landmark … Continue reading

Today’s Youth: Helping Us Build a Better Future

Posted by & filed under Planning.

Work session with county kids inspires staff, proves the next generation Is a key planning resource

By Kendra Hyson and Jessica McVary

Wouldn’t it be great if our plan for the future was created with input from all the generations of people who will live in our county in the next 30 years? We are driving change for the next generation, but are we including today’s kids in conversations about the future and implementing their ideas in a meaningful way? The youth are our future.  Their voices should be heard.

With the progression of social media and other online platforms, today’s kids have strong technical skills and increased awareness of technology and other issues important to our future. Their … Continue reading

Preserving the Past: Cemetery Mystery Solved!

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Planners use high tech tools to bring a historic headstone’s inscription back to life

By Brian Crane, PhD and Kacy Rohn

In the Planning Department, we talk a lot about the future. But much of our work is rooted in the past. We learn from history and we also help preserve it. Our county’s cemeteries are a treasure trove of information. Genealogists and history buffs love cemeteries for all the family history they contain, but time and nature pose challenges. Some historic gravestones have become so weathered, it’s almost impossible to read them.

New technologies have come to the rescue, offering ways to recover those lost inscriptions without damaging the stone. In November, someone contacted the county for help … Continue reading

Public Places 101: Thirty years from today

Posted by & filed under Design, Places, Planning, Public spaces.

By Natasha Fahim, Tsaiquan Gatling and Atul Sharma

How to design unique places Montgomery County residents will love for generations

Public places are the heart of any thriving community. It’s where we spend time with our family, meet our friends, and experience new things. Without great public places, a community lacks a sense of identity and pride. It is becoming more important that we emphasize creating successful public places, in order to support our communities, as the growth of technology enables many social activities to move from the community onto the internet.

Thrive Montgomery 2050 is a collective community effort to figure out – together – how Montgomery County can be a great community over the next 30 years. … Continue reading

How to Talk Like a Transportation Planner (or at least fake it well!)

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By Katie Mencarini and David Anspacher

Believe it or not, if you’re reading this, you are probably an expert on Montgomery County transportation! Whether you drive to work, ride on a commuter bus, walk to the dry cleaners or bike to school, you know what is and isn’t working, and you have ideas about how to improve the situation. What you might not know is how to communicate those ideas effectively to a transportation planner. We can help. Read on as we cover some of the most common transportation planning terms and tell why they matter.

Most trips people make aren’t for pleasure; they are to get to places. Accessibility is the main way transportation planners describe how many … Continue reading

Small Backyard Houses, Big County Benefits

Posted by & filed under Planning, Zoning.

By Paul Mortensen and Njillan Sarre

Called backyard cottages or granny flats, accessory dwelling units can help remedy our housing shortage

The Montgomery County Council is in the process of considering changes to the existing laws that allow accessory dwelling units (ADUs). These secondary housing units are located on the same lot as an owner-occupied single-family home. They are significantly smaller than the main house and can be a stand-alone structure in the backyard, a basement apartment, an addition or an apartment over the garage. ADUs go by many names, such as accessory apartments, backyard cottages or granny flats, among others.

Under current law, homeowners in Montgomery County who want to have an ADU face several restrictions. A detached … Continue reading

Focusing Vision Zero in the Suburbs

Posted by & filed under Research.

Montgomery County master plans recommend ways of eliminating traffic fatalities and severe injuries By David Anspacher and Jessica McVary

If you think implementing Vision Zero to eliminate traffic fatalities in your city is challenging, try starting a program in the suburbs where communities were designed for the automobile and largely devoid of concern for walking, bicycling and transit use!

While more than 40 cities in North America have endorsed Vision Zero, only one suburban jurisdiction – Montgomery County, Maryland – has embraced this strategy to eliminate all traffic-related fatalities and severe injuries by 2030 while increasing mobility. Montgomery County is attempting to demonstrate that realizing Vision Zero is not just possible in San Francisco and Washington DC, but also … Continue reading

Docomomo in Montgomery

Posted by & filed under Architecture, Design.

This past Saturday, the Montgomery County Planning Department and the Potomac Chapter of the American Institute of Architects participated in the nationwide docomomo event by sponsoring a tour of some of Montgomery County’s mid-century modern buildings.

The tour began at GEICO, where the soft, sweeping lines of the Victor Kling campus contrast with the rectilinear facades and composition of buildings. Across the street, The Irene apartment building displays the same rectilinear façade patterns. The neighborhoods of Potomac Overlook and Glen Echo Heights tucked their glass-walled homes amid the natural landscape, capturing views and light.

Many tour-goers thought the highlight was a visit to the Seymour Krieger House, designed by internationally recognized architect, Marcel Breuer. Breuer’s work on this house, … Continue reading