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

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

Lessons Learned from ULI Fall Meeting: Authenticity is key to great places

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In October, I was fortunate to attend the 2018 ULI Fall Meeting in Boston as a recipient of a scholarship for local public officials from the Rose Center for Public Leadership in Land Use. The conference attracted over 6,000 industry leaders in real estate and land use and was a wonderful opportunity to get out of the day-to-day bubble of planning and land use in Montgomery County and learn about trends in other parts of the country to inform our work.

Particularly valuable were the site tours and sessions offered by the ULI Placemaking Council during the Council Day on Wednesday. The program comprised visits to the new Seaport District in South Boston adjacent to the Convention Center and … Continue reading

Public Spaces in Living Color

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In a Los Angeles park, hot pink benches and chairs play a vital role of respite and identity, revealing the transformative power of color

Grand Park – known simply as the “pink park” – is a 12-acre urban oasis in the heart of downtown Los Angeles. The park reopened in 2012, transforming a dreary government plaza into a spectacular community centerpiece. In a bustling urban setting where the park offers much-needed relief, color plays a key role in defining its identity and providing lessons for planners and designers of public spaces in Montgomery County.

The designers of Grand Park, Rios Clementi Hale Studios, expressed the multiculturalism of Los Angeles though the colors and textures of flora and fauna drawn … Continue reading

Montgomery Planning on the National Stage

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Planners presented cutting-edge concepts and projects through record five presentations at the 2018 National American Planning Association Conference in New Orleans

Montgomery Planning hit it big in the Big Easy. We were thrilled to present five sessions at the national American Planning Association (APA) conference, held from April 21 through April 23, 2018 in New Orleans. These presentations represent the most participation ever from our agency at this annual forum and we received great audience feedback about our ideas.

This year’s APA conference attracted about 5,700 planners, elected officials and planning junkies from across the country to learn about the latest trends and solutions to the challenges of land use, economic development, community revitalization and more (see photos of … Continue reading

Eight Ways to Build a Better Urban Park

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New York City’s High Line park offers lessons for public space design in Montgomery County’s urban centers

More than half of the world’s population now lives in urban areas. Cities and urban-style environments will house two-thirds of humanity by 2050. Montgomery County is in sync with this trend as many of its communities, including Bethesda and Silver Spring, transform into urban places with higher densities.

As our planet urbanizes, interest in studying the effects of nature on the human mind and body is increasing. Growing evidence suggests that daily exposure to nature boosts our health, productivity and creativity. Children in particular benefit greatly from regular intervals of time spent in natural environments.

These positive results underscore the importance of … Continue reading

Placemaking Presentation Focuses on the Details

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Seattle-based consultant Paula Rees shares her experiences in enriching real estate developments with art and design

“It’s all in the combination of great details,” said Paula Rees, principal of the Seattle-based firm Foreseer, while revealing her secrets to placemaking to a large audience at the Montgomery County Planning Department. Rees showed image after image of public artworks, quirky signage, “tattooed” facades and inviting storefronts to demonstrate her points.

Her lively projects at Pike and Rose in North Bethesda, Santana Row in San Jose, Assembly Row in Boston and other locations were part of an inspiring presentation that drew a standing-room-only crowd to the Planning Department’s auditorium on December 2.

Rees started her talk with a basic definition of place … Continue reading

Putting a value on historic preservation, revisited

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I like to revisit posts I have done. Not long ago I wrote about putting a value on historic preservation. Three recent developments bring me back to the subject. First, the Historic Preservation Commission recently approved 39 applications for the county’s historic preservation tax credits. The 39 projects represent nearly $1.5 million in private investment in historic properties in communities across the county. This is a good thing. As discussed in the previous post, money spent on historic preservation projects demonstrates a strong multiplier effect, making investments in historic rehabilitation particularly beneficial for local economics, jobs and businesses. The number of tax credit projects also bears note. The 39 projects represent perhaps a quarter, or less, of the projects … Continue reading