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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

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By Todd Fawley-King and Atul Sharma

Introduction

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

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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

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Written by Jesse Cohn & Eli Glazier

There’s not doubt that over the past few months, the COVID-19 pandemic has drastically changed the way that we live, work, play and travel. However, some of these short-term impacts of the pandemic may extend into the future for years to come, long after we find a vaccine.

Experts and practitioners in transportation, real estate, economics, public health and other disciplines have shared their initial predictions of what life will look like in the wake of COVID-19.

And as planners who must prepare for these potential long-term changes and adapt accordingly, we have been listening closely. A core group of us at Montgomery Planning have spent the past few months reviewing recent … Continue reading

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Keys to Building Economic Resilience in Montgomery County Post-Pandemic

As we await post-pandemic life and speculate about our economic future, the idea of economic resilience—how quickly and easily we as individuals and society can adapt to and recover from a devastating economic blow—is on everyone’s minds. So let’s examine the idea of economic resilience: what the term “resilience” means for a local economy, what characteristics and conditions make local economies resilient in the face of economic challenges and how Montgomery County can position itself to be more resilient.

Local Economies, Adaptive Resilience, and Relationships

Economic resilience is adaptive resilience. This is different from the type of resilience we expect from our physical infrastructure, which “bounces back” to normal functioning … Continue reading

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The retail that helps define Montgomery County’s character is struggling. The necessary COVID-19 restrictions that reduce crowds will continue to challenge retail in Montgomery County even after the lockdown eases, but the county has policies and programs that could help landlords, retailers, employees and the customers they serve.

Montgomery County’s extensive retail sector with 40.6 million leasable square feet across 2,390 properties (Source: CoStar) serves a diverse population and is a key amenity for the County. In their 2017 Retail Trends Study, the Montgomery County Planning Department highlighted vibrant, small retail businesses and recommended that the County would “benefit from focusing on the development and support of these unique small businesses, as these businesses are market differentiators for the … Continue reading

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Several weeks into the COVID-19 pandemic, it has already become cliché to say that we are living in unprecedented times, but it is still too early to understand exactly how severe the economic damage will be, and how it will effect Montgomery County and its residents. While hundreds of thousands are already suffering the direct health effects of the COVID-19, the indirect economic fallout from the near closure of the economy is also becoming apparent. From the weeks ending March 21 through April 11, over 22 million people filed for Federal unemployment insurance in the U.S., including over 38,600 people in Montgomery County. This volume has far surpassed all previous records. The $350 billion Paycheck Protection Program created by … Continue reading

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For more than a year, we have been working on Thrive Montgomery 2050, an update to the General Plan directing the long-term vision and direction for land use and growth in the county. While public attention is understandably more focused on short-term issues, long-term thinking remains critical to guide how we respond to changes in the future.

From the beginning of the Thrive 2050 planning process, we have emphasized that the plan needs to be flexible and adaptable to a future in which change seems to happen more rapidly than in the past.  Where to do we want to be as a county in five, 10, 30 years? The framework for the plan identifies three key themes as core … Continue reading

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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

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By now I think –or hope, anyway – that just about everyone who has spent any time studying the region’s housing realizes that we are not building enough of it. One part of the housing supply problem that has not received as much attention is the mismatch between the types of housing already built (and being built) and the kind needed for a changing population who are adopting different living arrangements.

The proportion of householders living alone has increased significantly while the proportion of households consisting of an adult couple with young children has decreased. In 1960, single-member households made up 7 percent of all households in the county. By 2018, that proportion had reached 25 percent, or about three-and-a-half … Continue reading