Economics, location, architectural design and zoning regulations play important roles in determining new uses for vacant office buildings
In a previous blog post, we explored trends likely to impact the adaptive reuse of office buildings, as illustrated through the Octave 1320 office-to-residential conversion in downtown Silver Spring. With its final unit now sold, the successful project prompted us to think about the future of office conversions in Montgomery County.
As cited in the 2015 Office Market Assessment and noted in countless other reports and news articles, the Washington region’s office market currently faces stiff headwinds that are likely to continue in the foreseeable future. Montgomery County is no exception. As of July 2017, the office vacancy rate in the … Continue reading
Recent analysis of three past plans reveals goals for housing and public facilities were accomplished, while visions for commercial spaces and transit have been slower to achieve
Planning, by design, is a forward-looking field and with 20 to 30-year plan horizons. Planning departments don’t often look back to see what happened with their visions. Such analysis is usually too challenging – staff who have worked on the plan have moved on and departments don’t often have the capacity or resources to handle such a task along with their day-to-day planning work.
The Montgomery Planning Department, however, decided to tackle this task in 2016 with three plans. We wanted to find out what had happened in different types of … Continue reading
Planning Department’s annual awards will be announced on October 19
The Montgomery County Planning Department is finalizing preparations for its third annual Design Excellence Award celebration on October 19, 2017 at the Silver Spring Civic Building. This event will be held from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. in conjunction with the American Institute of Architects Potomac Valley Chapter’s design awards program.
This year, the Planning Department will recognize two top awards, one for excellence in architecture and urban design, and a second for great spaces and landscapes. More than 25 exceptional works of architecture, landscape architecture and urban design completed in Montgomery County over the past decade have been submitted for review in September 2017 by another outstanding independent jury … Continue reading
More housing choices are needed to bridge affordability gaps and transition between commercial and residential areas
Until I was 10 years old, I lived on a block where there were single-family homes, a house split into two apartments and a small quadruplex apartment building. It was a very close-knit neighborhood with frequent visits to the neighbors. My best friend lived – with his mom, dad and baby sister – in one of the apartments in the house and I befriended an elderly couple who lived in one of the quadruplex apartments. In fact, I still have a beautiful china tea cup that they gave me.
It used to be that there were housing choices other than what we usually … Continue reading
Small but extremely destructive bugs from Asia are causing major disruptions to our tree canopy.
In 2016, the Montgomery County Department of Parks started removing potentially hazardous ash trees from parkland owned by the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission. These trees had to be cut down because they were infected by an exotic, invasive insect known as the emerald ash borer.
The larvae from this metallic-green beetle can quickly bore into an ash tree, feed on its inner bark and kill it in one to three years, so the dead tree becomes dangerous to people and property. Insecticide treatments cannot save the tree, so the best strategy is to remove it and get rid of the infected wood.
Last fall we featured the work of architectural firm Deigert and Yerkes in our Montgomery Modern Bus Tour 2017. Now a custom Deigert and Yerkes house has been listed on the market. The Boskey House is tucked away on a wooded lot in the Westgate subdivision, between Massachusetts Avenue and River Road. The low, horizontal form of the one-story front is well-anchored to the site.
Characteristic of Deigert and Yerkes-designed houses, the Boskey House is designed for maximum privacy, with an expert site plan and well-preserved natural setting. Dark-stained redwood siding, neutral-painted trim, and fieldstone base accents are features which serve to connect the house to its setting.
These requests were just a few of the comments captured by a graphic artist during the second community meeting for the Veirs Mill Corridor Master Plan. Community residents and stakeholders were invited to the March 29 session to brainstorm the opportunities and constraints within neighborhoods along Veirs Mill Road, from Wheaton to Rockville.
Separated into small groups, the participants discussed the positive and negative aspects of their neighborhoods. They cited the need for future improvements, ranging from bus shelters to improved maintenance of sidewalks and roads.
Representatives from each group then shared highlights of their discussions with the larger audience. As they spoke, their feedback was recorded in words and pictures by graphic artist Lucinda Levine of Crowley … Continue reading
Transit-served locations, less parking and affordability in urban centers are behind the successful recycling of offices into residences and other uses
Walking past the Octave 1320 on Fenwick Lane in Downtown Silver Spring, it is hard to imagine that not too long ago, this glimmering, 102- unit condominium housed vacant offices and a greasy spoon eatery in its basement. The transformation of the 10-story building, developed by Promark Real Estate Services of Rockville and designed by Washington, DC-based BKV Group, is impressive and likely to become the norm rather than the exception in Montgomery County’s urban centers. Several factors are influencing such conversions of aging office structures to other uses:
For the past eight years, the median household income in Montgomery County has remained below the level during the Great Recession. Moreover, median household incomes have yet to recover to the 1999 benchmark of $101,824 after the precipitous drop in 2010 to $96,913 (illustrated in Figure 1). The median household income – the income at which half of the households are above and half are below – adjusted for inflation, dropped 5.8 percent (-$6,063) from its peak in 2007 to $98,917 in 2015. The latest estimate is 2.9 percent lower than the adjusted 1999 median household income of $101,824.
Figure 1. Montgomery County Median Household Income 1999-2015 (constant 2015 dollars)
Will they make urban communities more livable or extinct?
As you read this blog, a nondescript Toyota Prius is logging mile after mile on highways across California. And while it looks and travels like any other car, this vehicle is without a driver.
The autonomous Prius represents the relentless pursuit by researchers and corporations to realize the dream of self-driving cars. Google has clocked upwards of 1.5 million self-driven car miles. The 2017 Detroit auto show focused on test drives of self-driven vehicles and introduced the VW autonomous minivan of the future. It is only a matter of time before driverless vehicles become ready for mass adoption.
As is the case with most new technologies, various claims are being … Continue reading