Setting the standard for Montgomery County’s sustainable development with the new M-NCPPC Wheaton Headquarters

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On February 17, 2021, Maryland National Capital Parks and Planning Commission (M-NCPPC) received word that the new 14-story Wheaton Headquarters building at 2425 Reedie Drive had officially obtained a LEED Platinum certification, the highest environmental status available from the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). It is the first LEED Platinum government office building in the state of Maryland and will set a very high bar for sustainable development and stewardship throughout Montgomery County.

This building is a manifestation of Montgomery Planning’s goal of promoting design excellence and transit-oriented development with the most efficient and well-designed mixed-use buildings. We did not want “just a glass office building” but one reflective of our goals of inclusive public planning, nature, and parks … Continue reading

Montgomery County-Based NAIOP Awards of Excellence Projects Help Planners Realize Neighborhood Design Goals

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Through our regulatory, master planning and policy efforts, the Montgomery County Planning Department is working to emphasize design excellence in our urban, suburban and rural communities. That is why we are excited to support award-winning developments in Montgomery County that are helping us to realize neighborhood design goals set by communities in our area master plans. This year the DC/MD chapter of NAIOP, the Commercial Real Estate Development Association for developers, owners and investors of office, industrial, retail and mixed-use real estate, recognized seven projects from Montgomery County at their 18th Awards of Excellence on October 14.

We at Montgomery Planning are just as proud of these projects as the winners themselves. We know that design excellence is an … Continue reading

Benevolent Societies, Cemeteries Hold Clues to Locations of Early Black Communities in Montgomery County

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The Montgomery County Historic Preservation Program is exploring the relationship between benevolent or mutual aid societies and Black schools, churches and cemeteries established over 100 years ago to better understand and preserve these important features of our past. These institutions were important to the growth of African American communities in Montgomery County. Many African American mutual aid societies were established after the Civil War to provide support for newly freed people who received no compensation for a lifetime of labor. This support often included financial assistance in the event of job loss or illness and burial after death. Benevolent society lodge halls were often located adjacent to or near African American schools, churches and burial grounds; these institutions were … Continue reading

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

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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

Moratorium Damages County’s Competitiveness and Affordability, Fails to Fix School Capacity Shortfalls

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The Montgomery County Council has the chance to better the County’s future by voting to approve the County Growth Policy

We’ve grown accustomed to the idea that developers are expected to pay a large part of the cost of building schools, based on the eminently reasonable theory that the construction of new housing generates demand for classroom space as families move into the housing, have children, and send them to local schools. If the schools get too crowded, county rules impose a moratorium on the development of new housing until classroom space is made available to “catch up.”

The logic behind this approach appears unassailable. If new housing produces a need for more seats in schools, it follows … Continue reading

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

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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

Public Places 101: Thirty years from today

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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

Moving Beyond the Americans with Disabilities Act Standards

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A walk around Silver Spring reveals the need to make streets and sidewalks easier to navigate for people with mobility challenges

What if you had to experience a mobility challenge? Maybe you suddenly become injured and must use crutches or a cane or perhaps you have a life-long mobility challenge where rolling is the only option instead of walking. If that happens, you may start to notice that those sidewalks and crossings you took for granted are not so accessible. Places you could comfortably travel to are now a challenge or even impossible to reach.

You might be familiar with the Standards for Accessible Design, made enforceable by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), that are required for all … Continue reading

The Deciders of the Design Excellence Winners

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An independent panel of five experts chose the winners of the 2019 Design Excellence Awards competition

For the fourth time, the Design Excellence Awards will celebrate the best of the best in design throughout Montgomery County. Selections of the 2019 winners were made in July by an independent jury of highly skilled, nationally recognized design professionals from across various creative fields.

This year’s five judges come from all different facets of design and have worked on notable projects across our region, from the Wharf in Southwest DC to new hotel and office towers in downtown Bethesda. The jurors were selected by Montgomery Planning, but made their decisions independently of the agency.

This year’s Design Excellence winners will be … Continue reading

Montgomery County’s Design Excellence Awards

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The 2019 awards will honor multifamily housing along with top-quality buildings, public spaces and landscapes in the county

Design excellence requires balancing the functional goals and artistic vision of a building, a space or a landscape to serve and inspire people. In Montgomery County, design excellence is about elevating architecture and urban design to make the mundane more compelling and create streetscapes and spaces that enhance human interaction in rural, suburban and urban settings.

Design excellence is becoming increasingly important in Montgomery County as available land for development is shrinking, densities in our centers are increasing and the need for attractive buildings, parks and public spaces. Quality design is now more urgent as competition for the best and brightest … Continue reading