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guest post: Ben Gruswitz

I’ve been thinking less about good community design and more about a good process to get there—particularly augmenting the community’s role in that process. Community participation is a critical element of good community design, and we are always looking for better ways of engaging the community.

More and more this is happening through the web. The Straight Line and now our Director’s blog are just two examples of community engagement through the web. Friends of White Flint’s FLOG played a key role in promoting community participation in the White Flint Master Plan. And increasingly local bloggers are getting the word out about upcoming public meetings and doing follow-ups for people who missed them.

But beyond … Continue reading

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Some interesting articles about transportation this week, none of them having to do with cars. Say bye bye to the little deuce coup.

Slate magazine has been running a series on “Nimble Cities” and here is their estimation of the three best ideas for urban transportation.

New York Magazine explores ways to make buses work as well as the subways.

And The Washington Post reports on a sight-impaired Montgomery County resident who identifies walking hazards that effect us all.

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Yesterday, I discussed the potential zone restructuring in the Montgomery County zoning rewrite. The series continues today with an overview of our thoughts on the mixed-use and commercial areas of the county.

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This week, we continue the series looking at Montgomery County’s zoning code rewrite. Montgomery has 120 zones, more than double the number of any other county in the region, and creating an untenable situation.

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guest post: Mary Dolan

The hot and humid weather has brought on a problem for the cucumbers and squash vines in the garden. Powdery Mildew, a common problem in this area, has attacked the plants causing the leaves to whiten and die. Some gardeners simply do not plant squash any more due to the heartbreak this disease can cause.

Since we are trying to solve these problems organically, we searched for an answer to our problem and found milk. Yes, spraying a 1 part skim milk to 9 parts water on all leaf surfaces once a week (after removing all infected leaves) is supposed to retard the spreadof the disease. Also, increasing air circulation by removing leaves and/or staking the plants should help.

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The MRO vegetable garden is thriving, despite record high heat and a watering restriction.

We’ve had a small harvest of herbs and greens and are watching the potatoes, beets, and peppers stretch out.

The garden also has a web page where you can see a video of staff gardeners talking about their goals for the garden.

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A landscape or city is legible when it conveys information about itself. A place is most legible when it conveys information without the obvious devices of communication. Legibility is a kind of follow-your-nose sense that allows you to understand a place from both macro and micro signals.

Manhattan is legible though a grid punctuated by landmarks.

Miami Beach is ever-oriented between ocean and bay.

Most Greek villages run from a port, up the hill to a fort or church that takes the high ground.

The ebb and flow of commercial activity and social life in these places can be anticipated. You can figure out where the main shopping streets are and where people go to relax.

Legibility works in different dimensions–from an … Continue reading

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Metro’s recent fare increase has some people wondering whether it makes economic sense to continue riding the rails. Base fares on Metrorail have increased by $0.20 to $1.95, and $0.25 to $0.45 for Metrobus. A second fare increase is planned for rush hour commuters at stations with heavy ridership traffic.

So is Metro still the smart economic choice for your daily commute? Yes, absolutely, without a doubt. According to Greater Greater Washington, once you factor in the cost of gas, maintenance, and parking the decision becomes a financial no-brainer. A daily rider who drives and parks at Shady Grove Station to commute to Metro Center will realize 50% savings over a driver.

Obviously, there are a few other factors … Continue reading

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I like the concept of Jolie-Laide: Beauty and the Beast.  While Montgomery County undoubtedly has a burdensome share of beastly buildings, some so crystallize the product of their time that they rise above.  Taken head-on it is not much to look at, but obliquely the minimally monikered (sorry)  Silver Spring’s “Garage 2”, at the intersection of Fenton Street and Cameron Street, is a civic building with moments of majesty that reminds me of Peter Behrens 1909 Tubinenfabrik in Berlin.

For your delectation:

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Right around the corner from the parking garage I showed yesterday is a very nice integration of retail into a parking garage.  It is difficult to say if the result was intentional or serendipitous and I think the success relies in part on the proximity of the surrounding buildings.  But I appreciate what looks like design intent made manifest.

The sharp contrast between the stark bright(ish) white and the shock of red establishes a nice hierarchy and rhythm for that side facade, while the tower anchors the corner and announces there is something there.

What you wouldn’t know from the pictures, however, is that the door on the longer facade is somewhat of a side door, entering into a … Continue reading