Skip navigation

Montgomery Planning Board briefed on county’s first Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Project

May 5, 2022

Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Project
Montgomery Planning’s Historic Preservation Office staff briefed the Planning Board on preliminary research findings and ongoing work to identify historically and culturally significant sites to the county’s AAPI communities

Wheaton, MD – The Montgomery County Planning Department, part of The Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission (M-NCPPC), provided an update on the county’s first Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Project to the Montgomery County Planning Board at its May 5 meeting. During the presentation, which was held in AAPI Heritage Month, staff from Montgomery Planning’s Historic Preservation Office highlighted the necessity of the project due to a critical underrepresentation of AAPI heritage in local, state, and federal inventories of historic resources.

AAPI residents comprise 15% of the county’s population, yet Montgomery County’s Master Plan for Historic Preservation currently includes only one site associated with AAPI heritage: the Pao-Chi and Yu Ming Pien home, which is within the recently designated Potomac Overlook Historic District. At the meeting, the Planning Board committed to building a deeper understanding of Montgomery County’s AAPI heritage and issued a proclamation for the first time honoring the county’s Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander residents for their contributions to the strength and diversity of the county.

View the staff report.

“We have so much to learn about Montgomery County’s history with AAPI communities,” said Rebeccah Ballo, Historic Preservation Supervisor. “Our county is unfortunately not unique in that this rich history has not been recorded—this is a disparity that is felt across the nation. We are proud that we are starting to change this with Montgomery Planning’s AAPI Heritage Project. By understanding this past, we hope to plan for a more equitable future for all residents.”

Historic Preservation Office staff have begun archival research and oral history work to outline a history of AAPI residents living in Montgomery County beginning in the early 1900s, long before the county’s AAPI population began to grow significantly in the 1970s. Major emerging themes in the research point to education, small business development, religion, and discrimination as important influences on the lives of the county’s AAPI residents and communities. Preliminary project findings were reported by University of Maryland graduate student and Montgomery Planning intern Karen Yee, whose research on the preservation of historic Chinatowns and international districts has been recognized by the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

“As both an Asian American and Montgomery County resident, I was elated to contribute to the project because it had a direct connection to both my family history and passion for preservation work,” said Yee, who recently wrote a blog post about her work on the AAPI Heritage Project on Montgomery Planning’s Third Place Blog. “AAPI heritage and culture is not widely documented in the field of preservation or in public history and even less so in the history of Montgomery County. It is our hope that the preservation and documentation of these sites and information can be preserved for current residents and for future generations to take pride in their role in shaping Montgomery County’s diverse history.”

Read: Honoring my heritage: How Montgomery Planning’s Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Project brought me closer to my family.

These themes will support the development of a historic context study of sites and trends related to AAPI history in Montgomery County that may be used for future historic property designations. In the coming months, a project consultant will continue to refine this preliminary research and conduct further archival research, oral history interviews, and a cultural resources survey of Montgomery County communities.

Planning staff are seeking community participation through an interactive feedback map that has been established to collect input on sites with historical and cultural significance to Asian American and Pacific Islander communities. Residents should use the map to identify places of personal and community importance, such as homes, restaurants, stores, places of worship, and neighborhoods in Montgomery County.

The project is supported by a non-capital grant awarded by the Maryland Historical Trust. The presentation recording will be available on demand on the Planning Board website.

Stay up to date with the latest news and information about the AAPI Heritage Project by signing up for our e-letter.

About the Historic Preservation Office

The Historic Preservation Office supports the Montgomery County Planning Board and the Historic Preservation Commission by providing for the identification, designation and regulation of historic sites in Montgomery County. Historic Preservation staff also maintains an archive and library of documentation on historic resources in Montgomery County and provides preservation outreach and guidance on preservation best practices to the public.

If you are interested in historic buildings, sites and programs in Montgomery County parks, visit the Montgomery County Parks website for more information.

About the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Project

Montgomery Planning’s Historic Preservation Office is leading Montgomery County’s first Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Project. The information collected will support an ongoing historic context study of sites and themes related to AAPI history in Montgomery County and may be used for future historic property designations. This is significant as Asian American heritage is currently underrepresented in the Master Plan for Historic Preservation, the county’s inventory of designated historic sites. The project is supported by a non-capital grant awarded by the Maryland Historical Trust.

About Montgomery Planning’s Equity Agenda for Planning

Montgomery Planning recognizes and acknowledges the role that our plans and policies have played in creating and perpetuating racial inequity in Montgomery County. We are committed to transforming the way we work as we seek to address, mitigate, and eliminate inequities from the past and develop planning solutions to create equitable communities in the future. While it will take time to fully develop a new methodology for equity in the planning process, we cannot delay applying an equity lens to our work. Efforts to date include

  • Developing an Equity Agenda for Planning. The Planning Board approved Equity in Master Planning Framework, and staff is working on action items.
  • Prioritizing equity in Thrive Montgomery 2050. Community Equity is one of the three priority areas of our county General Plan update, Thrive Montgomery 2050.
  • Focusing on equity in upcoming plans. Equity is a central focus of the Silver Spring Downtown and Adjacent Communities Plan, the first master plan to launch since Montgomery County’s Racial Equity & Social Justice Act passed. All upcoming plans and studies will have an equity focus.
  • Created an Equity Focus Areas mapping tool and developing a Community Equity Index. Equity Focus Areas in Montgomery County have high concentrations of lower-income people of color, who may also speak English less than very well. Montgomery Planning developed this data-driven tool to identify and map these areas to assess potential racial and social inequities and produce master plans that will foster more equitable outcomes for communities in Montgomery County. The Community Equity Index will expand on the previous Equity Focus Area analysis, creating a more robust, diagnostic tool providing additional detail of critically selected neighborhood characteristics relevant for equity analysis countywide.
  • Viewing management and operations through an equity lens. Our efforts are not limited to the master planning process. Management and operational functions like communications and human resources are developing approaches, tools, plans, and training to ensure that we look at everything through an equity lens.