Mapping a Mystery: A Puzzle from the County’s Past

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Seeking the community’s help to find answers

Written by Kacy Rohn, in collaboration with Montgomery History

Historic maps are key to understanding Montgomery County’s evolution. They reveal past social and economic systems, patterns of development and decline, and evolving transportation networks. Many of these maps have been closely studied for years, but they still hold mysteries about the county’s past. We are seeking input from county residents and historians to unravel a question about Martenet & Bond’s 1865 map of Montgomery County.

The map was published by Simon J. Martenet, a surveyor and civil engineer based in Baltimore who produced detailed maps of Maryland counties. In looking closely at this map to understand a historic road alignment, Historic Preservation … Continue reading

Silver Spring: Journey from suburb to city and what the next 20 years may hold

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Over the last 20 years, Silver Spring has evolved from a DC suburb with blocks of stately single-family homes on lush green lawns to a lively and energetic city in its own right. Today it is a diverse downtown with a multi-modal transit center, office buildings, high-rise residential towers, restaurants, shops, entertainment venues, and a burgeoning night-time economy. With this transformation, the downtown residential population has nearly doubled from just under 7,000 people in 2000 to over 12,000 people who live in the downtown Silver Spring today.

This growth, which is largely attributed to the success of public and private investment and the 2000 Silver Spring Central Business District Sector Plan, has created several opportunities, but also some challenges. … Continue reading

Recognizing History from Home: Exploring Clarksburg’s Past Through Montgomery County’s Field of Dreams

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Written by Kacy Rohn with Dan Stouffer, M.A.T, M.S.Ed and the Seneca Valley High School Leadership Class

Montgomery Planning’s Historic Preservation Office staff have recently engaged with a Seneca Valley High School class seeking further historic recognition for Wims Meadow, also known as Wims Field of Dreams, in Montgomery Parks’ Little Bennett Regional Park. The site was a ballfield for the county’s African American baseball teams at a time when racial segregation restricted social and recreational outlets for Black residents. The field, which is accessible from Western Piedmont Trail in Clarksburg, is often mowed in the general outline of the regulation baseball field that once existed, and a wooden, rectangular backstop stands nearby. 

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

The Poor Farm Cemetery: A Dark and Overlooked Part of Our Past

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Painful chapters of Montgomery County’s history played out at the Poor Farm and its associated cemetery south of Rockville along I-270. The Poor Farm was an almshouse surrounded by farm fields in use for nearly 200 years from as early as 1789 until the 1980s. Our county’s history is often difficult with regards to our historically vulnerable populations, like those that lived at the Poor Farm. Reading about these stories can be hard, but the Historic Preservation Program works to preserve and interpret these as part of our work to support a more equitable future for all of us. This work will be important with the expansion of I-270 around this historic site.

The Poor Farm’s difficult history

The … Continue reading

Future of the office market, Part 2: Which of Montgomery County’s office districts are best positioned to win the region’s post-COVID office space race?

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In part 1 of our Future of the Office Market series, we explored how the advent of widespread teleworking in response to COVID-19 may change the value companies place on having centralized office spaces. The reduced need to work from the office will change the amount of office space we need and the types of offices and office districts in which we work. To compound the problem, office vacancy was high in Montgomery County’s 72.5 million square feet of leasable office space and much of this space was poorly suited to modern needs. Media coverage of our 2015 Office Market Assessment prominently highlighted the challenge we face with ‘dying’ office parks. Media continues to focus on economic development challenges … Continue reading

Future of the office market, Part 1: What will the post-pandemic office market mean to the growth and redevelopment of Montgomery County?

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Written by Todd Fawley-King & Atul Sharma

The sudden experiment in widespread telework for office workers as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic has pundits appropriately questioning the future of the office. Much of this discussion focuses on using technology to make buildings safer, but there are more fundamental questions about the need for and relevance of office space itself. The sector is at risk of disruption: an estimated 40% to 50% of the 472,126 jobs in Montgomery County could be performed at home by telecommuting.[i] That in turn has significant implications for real estate in Montgomery County, which has 1,533 office buildings offering 73.3 million leasable square feet, approximately 12% of which was vacant in Q4 2019 before … Continue reading

The Edward U. Taylor Elementary School

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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

Growing Interest: Thrive 2050 Planning Brings Renewed Zest for Connecting People with Local Agriculture, Agritourism

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Do you know where your food is grown or how it is produced? In our increasingly global and digital society, it is possible to consume a variety of foods without considering typical growing seasons or cost of production – all while having everything from almonds to zucchini effortlessly delivered to our doorsteps. This convenience – which many of us enjoy regularly due to our busy schedules – comes with a cost of separating ourselves from the story behind our food. In urban and urbanizing areas, this separation can be even more profound as we do not regularly interact with farming or farmland.

While Montgomery County is increasingly urban, it also has a tremendous resource to connect residents with farming … 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