Thrive Montgomery 2050: Less driving with concentrated growth will lead to a more sustainable environment

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Lessons learned from Portugal

This past May, I had the pleasure of traveling through Portugal on a greatly anticipated summer, post-COVID trip. What a beautiful country and what a perfect example of concentrated, walkable mixed-use communities, which are found in all its small, medium and larger cities and towns. Portugal, as well as a large portion of Europe shows us impressive examples of how to save energy and resources through the concentration of buildings and then connects those communities with simple, easy to use transit systems consisting of trains, trams, buses, cars, bikes, carts and scooters. It is walkable concentrated development linked by multimodal transportation at its best! I strongly suggest you visit Portugal if you can. The urbanism, … Continue reading

Honoring my heritage: How Montgomery Planning’s Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Project brought me closer to my family

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Montgomery County’s first AAPI Heritage Project is examining the history of AAPI county residents as early as the 1900s

By Karen Yee

Of the 86,000 sites listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the nation’s repository of historic structures, sites, buildings, districts and objects that are deemed significant to American history, less than 8% relate to Asian Americans and other underrepresented communities. In Montgomery County, where 15% of residents are Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI), there is only one locally designated resource associated with AAPI heritage, the Pao-Chi and Yu Ming Pien House. Even this house was only recently recognized—it is located within the Potomac Overlook Historic District, designated in April 2022. In order to address this … Continue reading

Honoring nationally renowned historic figure, the Rev. Josiah Henson

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A conversation with Montgomery Planning Director Gwen Wright on the newly renamed Josiah Henson Parkway

By Gwen Wright and Karen Blyton

On March 4, 2022, community members and government leaders witnessed history as street signs were installed one week after the Montgomery Planning Board approved a resolution to rename Montrose Parkway in honor of the Rev. Josiah Henson. The new Josiah Henson Parkway in North Bethesda runs through the former plantation property of Isaac Riley, where Henson was enslaved for many years before escaping to freedom in Canada. Just a few blocks south of Josiah Henson Parkway is the Josiah Henson Museum and Park, which is also part of the Riley property and is operated by Montgomery Parks.

Henson, … Continue reading

Update: Mapping A Mystery

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Community input sheds light on Montgomery County history

By Kacy Rohn, in collaboration with Montgomery History

Over the summer, we published a blog post seeking input on an unanswered question about an abbreviation used on Martenet & Bond’s 1865 Map of Montgomery County. The map frequently used the letter “P” following individual’s names but didn’t indicate what that meant. Without a key to the map, we considered several meanings: could it be “place,” “principal,” “plantation,” or “pump?”  This was a mystery even to the original mapmaking company, S.J. Martenet & Co., whose records of the map’s production were lost in the Great Baltimore Fire of 1904.

In partnership with Montgomery History, we put out a call for suggestions and received nearly 100 … Continue reading

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

Update: After receiving nearly 100 community submissions, see our best guess for the meaning of the letter “P” in this blog post.

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 … 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