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Silver Spring Downtown and Adjacent Communities Plan approved

June 2, 2022

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Plan recommends development of key opportunity sites, new parks, improvements to bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure, and vision for sustainable economic growth in downtown 

Wheaton, MD – The resolution of adoption of the Silver Spring Downtown and Adjacent Communities Plan was approved unanimously by the Montgomery County Planning Board on June 2. This follows the Montgomery County Council’s approval of the plan on May 26. The Montgomery County Planning Department, part of The Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission (M-NCPPC), began work on the plan in 2020, and the Planning Board Draft Plan was approved by the Montgomery County Planning Board and transmitted to the County Council in January 2022.

The plan envisions a green, successful, thriving downtown that continues to be a unique regional destination and a diverse home to people of all ages and backgrounds. The plan recommends the development of key opportunity sites, new and improved parks, improvements to bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure, and new connections across the Metrorail/CSX tracks. It also includes recommendations for land use and zoning, housing, economic growth, urban design, transportation, environmental resiliency, community facilities and historic resources.

Some of the key recommendations in the approved Silver Spring Downtown and Adjacent Communities plan include:

  • Establish a Green Loop to expand and unify access for all residents to green, safe, and inviting sidewalks, bikeways, and parks and open spaces.
  • Create new and enhance existing parks and open spaces, including a major renovation of Jesup Blair Park.
  • Support the expansion of bioscience, technology, and education uses to increase employment opportunities in the plan area.
  • Update the Zoning Code to provide more flexibility of development, increase affordable housing, support small business growth, and realize Sector Plan goals.
  • Encourage the development of diverse housing types throughout the plan area.
  • Establish the Civic Improvements Fund (CIF) to allow all Commercial/Residential (CR) properties to obtain additional density if needed to meet maximum building heights. The fund will support a world-class arrival experience at the transit center, a new bridge connection across the rail tracks, and strategic streetscape improvements.
  • Implement a Design Advisory Panel and design review for all Optional Method development projects.
  • Incentivize redevelopment of key opportunity sites to realize the district-specific visions presented in the plan.
  • Increase the minimum Moderately Priced Dwelling Unit (MPDU) requirement from 12.5 percent to 15 percent plan wide.

The plan boundary was adjusted by the County Council – the final Silver Spring Downtown and Adjacent Communities Plan boundary is reflected in the map below.

The Plan Area covers approximately 442 acres and is generally bound by Eastern Avenue to the south, 16th Street to the west, Spring Street to the north, and portions of the Seven Oaks-Evanswood and East Silver Spring neighborhoods to the east.

“We were fortunate to have a very active community involved with this plan,” said Atara Margolies, project manager. “The plan’s recommendations are the culmination of community members’ feedback as well as a collaborative effort with the Montgomery County Planning Board and the Montgomery County Council. We are proud of all of the work that went into this plan and know that it will support an exciting and successful future for downtown Silver Spring.”

Throughout the two-year planning process, Montgomery Planning staff connected with residents, community organizations, property owners, civic associations, condo boards, employers, business owners, Montgomery College and county agency partners. During the first phase of public engagement, Planning staff heard from over 500 stakeholders about what they wanted to see happen in the future of Silver Spring.

As the first Sector Plan to follow the passage of Montgomery County’s Racial Equity and Social Justice Act, equity is woven throughout the plan and is reflected in the four overarching themes that emerged after engaging with stakeholders: diversity, resiliency, connectivity, and community health. Learn more about the equitable engagement efforts for the Silver Spring Downtown and Adjacent Communities Plan.

“Silver Spring had many challenges when Montgomery Planning worked on the 2000 Silver Spring Central Business District Sector Plan,” said Montgomery Planning Director Gwen Wright. “As a result of implementing that plan’s recommendations over the last 20 years, Silver Spring has evolved into a unique and vibrant downtown.  We know the recommendations in this plan will continue that success by creating an even more economically-sustainable, green, and pedestrian-friendly downtown Silver Spring.

“Silver Spring has made great progress over the past twenty years, but we can’t afford to be complacent,” said Montgomery Planning Board Chair Casey Anderson. “This plan will help us build on the foundation established by revitalization that began in the area surrounding Fenton and Ellsworth, expanding its scope to bring fresh investment to the southern end of the Georgia Avenue corridor and helping to attract small and large businesses to our community.”

The plan will now be sent to M-NCPPC for adoption.

About the Silver Spring Downtown and Adjacent Communities Plan

The 2000 Silver Spring Central Business District Sector Plan established a planning framework for downtown Silver Spring that envisioned a green, transit-oriented and pedestrian-friendly downtown with a strong commercial and residential development market. In the 20 years since the adoption of the downtown Silver Spring Sector Plan, the area has transformed from an area in decline to a vibrant destination for offices, retail, restaurants, and entertainment that is defined by its unique diversity. Montgomery Planning is updating the downtown Silver Spring Sector Plan to guide Silver Spring’s future growth.

Through the Silver Spring Downtown and Adjacent Communities Plan process, Montgomery Planning will analyze and reevaluate all aspects of the existing plan, consider the recommended changes implemented from the last plan, and assess future needs – all informed by community conversation and input. View the plan’s Scope of Work that the Planning Board approved in June 2020.

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 Montgomery Planning is implementing its 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.