Montgomery County is one of the most desirable places to live and work in the United States. However, like many other places in the country, we are facing new and different issues and trends. This includes weak wage and job growth, persistent racial and economic inequities, demographic and cultural shifts, technological innovation, and climate change. Some of these issues have been reinforced, or even created, by our past public and private plans and actions.
As we finalize the update to the county’s General Plan, Thrive Montgomery 2050, it is important that we reexamine the county’s planning history to become a more equitable, sustainable, and resilient community. Let’s take a walk through the county’s past 245 years:
Montgomery County was … Continue reading
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
The first and second entries of this series on the future of Montgomery County’s office market examined how widespread telework will change the value of office space and explored various scenarios for future office demand. In this third and final part of the series, let’s dive further into what will be needed to convince office users to continue to rent physical space in Montgomery County as we enter an era in which employers can more readily work from home at substantially lower cost. The competitiveness of our more than 74 million square feet of office space is a significant factor contributing to the $1.8 billion in property taxes Montgomery County collects (from both commercial and residential properties), the largest … Continue reading
Here at the Montgomery County Planning Department and the Montgomery Planning Board, we all share a very strong commitment to continuing our important work of enhancing and building great communities in Montgomery County. Even in the middle of all the struggle of COVID-19, I was touched and inspired to see so many of our staff, both those who serve as essential employees and come into the office as well as the large group we have working from home, rise to the challenge and demonstrate heroic commitment to continuing their important work. Looking back at this very tough year as director of the Montgomery County Planning Department, I have witnessed so much dedication amongst our staff and I want to … Continue reading
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
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
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
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
By Todd Fawley-King and Atul Sharma
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
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