Design Makes a Difference: Good Hope Neighborhood Recreation Center – Silver Spring

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This is the fifth and final in a series of Third Place blogs taking a closer look at the winners of Montgomery Planning’s 2023 Design Excellence Awards.

Great and complete neighborhoods are focused on parks and public spaces, which foster health, recreation, and socialization. Civic buildings are often associated with these public spaces to encourage greater use of both. When we build connections through our civic facilities on public parks, we dramatically strengthen community. It is an investment in community that fosters tremendous social returns. The Design, Arts and Culture chapter of the Thrive Montgomery 2050 General Plan update speaks to the importance of these qualities incorporated into our civic buildings and all architecture. Our civic buildings should promote … Continue reading

Design Makes a Difference: Pike and Rose

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This is part of a series of Third Place blogs taking a closer look at the winners of Montgomery Planning’s 2023 Design Excellence Awards.

As stated in the Thrive Montgomery 2050 General Plan, communities should be compact, mixed-use and pedestrian-friendly to allow independence for those who do not drive, especially the elderly and the young. Transit, pedestrian, and bike systems should link communities to maximize mobility throughout the region and to further reduce vehicle dependence. The primary task of the architecture and landscape in these communities is physically defining streets and public spaces that people share. These spaces are the public realm, which we often pay a lot of money to visit on vacations around the world.

People of … Continue reading

Herstory: Celebrating M-NCPPC Leaders

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In honor of Women’s History Month, three Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission leaders tell their inspiring stories of how they reached the top echelons of the planning profession and offer advice for other women looking to be trailblazers of their own. We spoke with Montgomery County Planning Board Commissioner Mitra Pedoeem, Montgomery Parks Director Miti Figueredo, and Prince George’s County Planning Director Lakisha Hull.


“As a young girl in Tehran, I dreamed of being a civil engineer despite all the odds for a woman to have an engineering career in Iran. I had to study hard to compete in a male-dominated society that generally provided a much more inferior education for females. With focus, determination, and hard … Continue reading

Design Makes a Difference: Marriott International Headquarters and Hotel

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This is part of a series of Third Place blogs taking a closer look at the winners of Montgomery Planning’s 2023 Design Excellence Awards.

In the book “Urbanism in the Age of Climate Change,” one of the founders of  Congress for The New Urbanism, Peter Calthorpe, defines urbanism in one of the best ways I have read:

Urbanism is a broad term defined by qualities, not quantities; by intensity, not density; by connectivity, not just location. Urbanism is always made from places that are mixed in uses, walkable, human-scaled, and diverse in population; that balance cars with transit; that reinforce local history; that are adaptable; and that support a rich public life. Urbanism can come in many forms, scales, … Continue reading

Design Makes a Difference: Artspace – Silver Spring

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This is the second in a series of Third Place blogs taking a closer look at the winners of Montgomery Planning’s 2023 Design Excellence Awards.

Many of the concepts described in Montgomery County’s updated General Plan – Thrive Montgomery 2050 – were created to help support the belief that our physical environment has a direct impact on our chances for happy, prosperous lives. It proposes that within the county, well-designed cities, towns, neighborhoods, and public places are necessary to create complete communities where people and businesses can thrive and prosper.

Thrive 2050 builds on our past successes and proposes modifications to prevailing development patterns of the past 60 years, which focused more on building dispersed, isolated housing far … Continue reading

Design Makes a Difference: The Wilson and The Elm

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This is the first in a series of Third Place blogs taking a closer look at the winners of Montgomery Planning’s 2023 Design Excellence Awards.

The best urban places in our region are those that are compact, pedestrian friendly, mixed-use, and supported by transit. The transit, pedestrian, and bicycle systems help to maximize access and mobility while reducing dependence on the automobile. In these places, and in the best neighborhoods in our region, architecture and landscape design defines streets and public spaces as places of shared use. These walkable and visually interesting neighborhoods linked to our natural corridors, parks and preserves are accomplishing many of the goals of Montgomery County’s new General Plan, Thrive Montgomery 2050, and its … Continue reading

Distinguished jury to choose 2023 Design Excellence Award Winners

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Distinguished jury to choose 2023 Design Excellence Award Winners

Design excellence in architecture requires balancing the functional goals and artistic vision of a building or landscape to inspire people and support a great community—and, at every scale, it offers the power to help sustain our environmental, social, and economic vitality well into the future.

Montgomery County’s Design Excellence initiatives celebrate architecture and landscapes that make everyday life more beautiful and create spaces that enhance social interaction as well as fulfill specific functions. The annual Design Excellence Awards spotlight our county’s very best designs, and submissions are now open through July 17, 2023. Submit contenders for the two select Awards, one for outstanding Architectural, Urban Design and Landscape design, and … Continue reading

Out-of-Office Reply: Redevelop the Building?

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Many real estate analysts and pundits are arguing that offices are becoming obsolete, thanks in large part to workers’ continued post-pandemic demand for hybrid or fully remote work schedules.  If this trend persists, planners must grapple with the question: What happens to the vacant space?  In this blog, we examine Montgomery County’s office-vacancy trends and the characteristics of highly vacant office space (which we defined as more than 50% vacant). We also look at the possibilities for redevelopment.  While vacancy isn’t the only factor affecting possible redevelopment of office space, it is significant and the focus of this blog.

Overall Trend

In just the past three years, office-space vacancy has increased dramatically in Montgomery County.  Vacancy rates in … Continue reading

UMD Students ‘Reveal the Art of the Possible’ in Silver Spring

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You don’t need to be a novelist to tell a great story; you don’t even have to be a great writer. Storytelling through architectural rendering is a centuries-old way of expressing the relationship between design and the construction of buildings in the world around us. Architectural renderings can also give context to our cultural understanding of places and can inspire visions of those places and our society into the future.

Several groups of graduate students at the University of Maryland School of Architecture, Planning & Preservation set out to tell an architectural design story to reimagine downtown Silver Spring. Professors Matt Bell and Georgianne Matthews guided students in the Graduate Urban Design Studio this past fall as they studied … Continue reading

Finding lost cemeteries in Montgomery County

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Learning to read the landscape

Montgomery Planning is exploring the relationship between burial grounds and surrounding landscapes to better understand these sites and find graveyards whose locations have been lost. Cemeteries are important because they are valued by descendants and may hold valuable information about people’s lives historians and genealogists cannot find anywhere else. Since 2017, county law has required Planning staff to keep an inventory of all the graveyards in the county.

Some burial sites in Montgomery County dating to the 1700s and 1800s are no longer visible, and their exact locations have been lost to time. This may be because the graves were never marked, or the markers have been moved or have deteriorated away. Other sites … Continue reading