Streetscape Challenges for Planners and Users

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This Thursday, the Planning Board will review the County’s DHCA plans to upgrade the 25-year old streetscaping along Georgia Avenue between Selim Street and Silver Spring Avenue. The goals are to meet ADA standards and to install new soil panels that will help street trees reach full maturity.

But it’s more than a matter of setting in a few bricks and new trees. The design of the sidewalk space and its elements has to mediate among the needs of all users. Business owners want trees that don’t obscure their storefronts and signs. Curb edges and varied paving materials can hold up wheelchair users but can help blind pedestrians navigate. Agencies undertaking the work, trying to make the most out of … Continue reading

If my grandmother can garden in her town….

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On a recent trip for my aunt’s wedding, I had a chance to stop by my grandparent’s place in a small town in CT. One of the first things I noticed, being who I am, is that the community open space was either play space or community garden space. My grandmother, of course, has a small plot where she can grow flowers and some veggies and generally keep active in a town where there isn’t much else to do – especially for seniors (or kids, for that matter).  I don’t think we can overstate how important connections to nature and food are and how community gardens, playgrounds, and open space bring people together and promote health, well-being, happiness, etc.  … Continue reading

When public art isn’t public enough, who does it benefit?

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One of the most fascinating pieces of public art in Silver Spring is “Coastline,” a sculpted water feature by Jim Sanborn, which is tucked into the plaza near the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration at 1301 East-West Highway. For those who know it is there – mostly office workers from the surrounding complex – it is a wonderful place to relax during lunch or coffee breaks. And the lucky kids who come across the piece are transfixed by the threat and prospect of being hit by the spray of the surf.

The sculpture: A large, pneumatically activated pool that sends waves crashing into stacked, sculpted red granite, creating an intense sound and sense of dynamism to which most water … Continue reading