The following post was written by Patrick Thornton of 8045 Newell Street and the second in a two part series of posts on points of view concerning development of 8001 Newell Street. – BCS

I believe this project is in the best long-term interests of South Silver Spring and Silver Spring as a whole.

This proposed building will bring more people to our community, helping us support more businesses within walking distance, while also helping to keep more eyes on the street to better ensure the safety of the community.

It is true that this project alone can’t bring more walkability and amenities to South Silver Spring, but it is just one piece in ongoing development efforts in the area. Two new buildings have come online on 13th Street this year, and another building right across Georgia from 13th is well under way. The motels on 13th Street will most likely be redeveloped within the next 10 years, and the rest of East-West past The Veridian and past Discovery’s second building will likely be redeveloped as well.

South Silver Spring is in its infancy as a community. We can’t stop revitalizing it now after coming so far. We need additional investment, and this new project on Newell brings that.

Much of the retail on East-West sits vacant because we don’t have enough people living in the area to support retail there, especially with competition from Georgia Ave. and Ellsworth. Each new building allows us to support more retail, making our streets and community more lively.

I’m extremely excited to a see a major, anchor tenant moving into East-West later this year. It’s no coincidence that after several new buildings were completed that more tenants started to show up. Many of us would like to see South Silver Spring better served by more amenities, and new projects that bring in new residents help support these businesses that benefit all of us and our property values.

Communities in the DC area that are more walkable and have more amenities have higher property values. As South Silver Spring has become denser from increased investment, the value of the land around here has gone up. South Silver Spring suffered from disinvestment for decades; I don’t want to see us go back to those times.

The plot of land for this proposed building also sits about a half mile from a red line metro stop. Land that close to the metro stop should be developed. Otherwise, land farther out will be developed, increasing sprawl, putting more cars on the road, lengthening people’s commutes, damaging the environment and making it harder to support walkable communities. Montgomery County deserves better.

Many of us moved to South Silver Spring for a walkable neighborhood close to a metro stop. We want to see South Silver Spring become an even better, more walkable community. One only has to look at the property values (and how strong they have remained after the housing bust) in denser and better served communities in The District and Arlington to see what South Silver Spring could be like.

People want walkability. People want amenities.

But you can’t build a great community overnight. South Silver Spring has come a long way from where it was 10 years ago and progress is ongoing. We’re not done yet, but we’re getting there. More people in our community will help keep our neighborhood healthy and to allow us to support more amenities within walking distance.

I know some people feel this new development will harm them. I disagree that it will, but it’s possible that for some, the increased vitality that comes with development will not outweigh the drawbacks they perceive. For South Silver Spring as a whole, however, this development and the other developments under way are most welcome.

It’s a good sign that during this economic slowdown that developers want to continue to invest in our community, that they want to help make it stronger. Let’s work with the developer and the architect to make sure that we get a building worthy of South Silver Spring.

Let’s build a better community.

15 Responses to Development in the Best Long-Term Interests by Patrick Thornton

  1. mickey says:

    Property values in SSS have decli,ned by an average of 12 percent from 2009 to 2012, according to county assessment data, even with an 18 percent jump in the number of housing units in the area over the same period of time. Independent economists see another 5 percent drop in value for every 1p0 units of new housing.

  2. Jessie says:

    I also support development of the 8001 parcel for primarily residential with a small amount of retail use as being in the best long term interests of our neighborhood. As currently proposed, the building footprint will cover less than 60 percent of the site, so to a pedestrian, it will seem smaller than the storage building, even if it is tall.

  3. Sandy says:

    “Let’s build a better community”? Yes, but “better” does not = more concrete. Mr. Thornton’s listing of numerous properties in the area “likely” to be developed (“The motels on 13th Street will most likely be redeveloped within the
    next 10 years, and the rest of East-West past The Veridian and past
    Discovery’s second building will likely be redeveloped as well.”) simply underlines the need for breathing green spaces among all this “likely” development. And I’m a bit surprised to find an analysis of the lack of retail in our area based entirely on numbers of people with nary a mention of the worst economic turn-down since the Great Depression. Mr. Thornton’s very optimism about future growth should alert us to the need for smart growth–growth that gains the benefits of density without sacrificing the benefits of a few quiet places for neighbors to breathe and meet.

  4. Dan Reed says:

    If South Silver Spring needs so much “breathing room,” why are most of the little pocket parks empty? Let’s be clear: this neighborhood isn’t Manhattan or even the Village of Friendship Heights (,_Maryland#Village_of_Friendship_Heights), which has 2.5 times the population density of South Silver Spring. If you moved into this neighborhood anytime within the past 20 years (or longer), you moved into an urban community. That comes with substantial benefits – proximity to Metro, shops and restaurants, jobs – on top of living in one of the wealthiest places in the US, with a strong economy and growing population. The tradeoff is that you have to suffer the indignity of a having a building built next to yours.

    There’s no maintaining the status quo. Either the neighborhood will grow or it’ll decline. And trust me, you don’t want the latter – I grew up in downtown Silver Spring and I remember when South Silver Spring was empty lots and auto body shops.

  5. Paul says:

    Dan, I don’t know you, so I hope you won’t be insulted. But I’ve lived in SS for 35 years. I have seen the area go from a bustling bedroom suburb to declines on East West and Georgia to the 2000 Master Plan that led to our current rebirth. Yet you are dead wrong on the building issue. The status quo is untenable, right, but it is because there is a tipping point when people do not move to a neighborhood if the quality of life and amenities do not exist to meet the demands of people choosing SS over other areas. A park is one such amenity to consider. Yes, there are open spaces, but the community does not have – nor has it ever had – consolidated green space beyond Acorn Park. Green space and open space are NOT the same thing and used differently. And, even Parks staff admit that Acorn Park is not really a full park, according to its own definition, hence the PROS plan has been developed. Green space is the amenity that help SS delay the tipping point beyond which people will not move into the area anymore, because they don’t have the options they can choose in another community.

    Further, Dan, where do you get the idea that SS is not dense? A far more accurate depiction of density is not the wikipedia definition you offer. Rather, why is that the 2009 American Community Survey of the US Census called DTSS the most dense population concentration, covering census tracts 7025 and 7026.01, in Montgomery County at a rate that is 3 times as dense as the District ? Density comes at a cost and the status quo of inexorable development needs to be addressed strategically, not just a knee jerk approval of every development project that comes forward before the County.

  6. Brian says:

    Despite these figures, my personal appraisals have gone up between 4 and 5 percent each of the past two years. I’m not saying that the figures are wrong at all, but (personally) I’m interested in how the increased development that we’ve already had has impacted you. I know how it has impacted me: Both the county and the appraisers (had a bunch of appraisals in the past 3 years – lucky me), tell me my individual unit is up over 2010. As someone who is likely here for the long haul, it’s a blessing and a curse. So – outside of the statistics, how has development impacted your actual home value?

  7. Dan Reed says:

    Paul, you don’t know me, so I don’t feel bad. I’m a city planner by training. I’m very familiar with the Census and the American Community Survey, which is what Wikipedia gets its figures from, so I trust it. The Village of Friendship Heights (which is in Montgomery County) has a density of over 81,000 people per square mile, which is (if I remember math class correctly) a bigger number than the 32,000 people/square mile in South Silver Spring’s Census tracts. I didn’t say it wasn’t dense – I said it wasn’t as dense as other places.

    My family moved to downtown Silver Spring in 1991, and my mother says she chose it because it was “quiet.” Clearly, some people feel the same today, and that’s their right. I like quiet and open space as much as anyone else. But it’s becoming increasingly apparent to me that how I perceive this neighborhood, and what I consider a good thing for it, is different than how other people think, and for me to spend my precious waking hours on this thread arguing with y’all about it is about as useful as yelling into the wind.

  8. Paul says:

    Dan, we are not going to yell at each other in the wind, so let’s stop our debate here.
    But I do want to point out to you that the Wikipedia article you linked used 2000 data. The data I was suggesting we use is from 2009. Further, 2012 Census projections point to an 18 percent increase in SSS population since 2010 alone. The growth rate in Friendship Heights did not expand as dramatically as the population boom in SSS over the same 2 years. That said, one should be cognizant of the over-development in the last two years as one weighs the merits of adding yet another 600 people in the area, when you include Galaxy, Orion, the building on Georgia, and the possibility of a building at 8001 Newell. This population increase should give one pause about how to think thru all the ramifications of expanding development without understandable constraint.

  9. JGE1023 says:

    Tax assessed values are determined by the State Department of Assessments and Taxation, they do not represent “property values”. Property values in South Silver Spring have increased 3-5% YTD.

    Your statement that “independent economist expect to see another 5 percent drop in value…” is not cited and seems out of context as I am certain it refers to the national housing market, and has little relevance to the conversation of development in downtown Silver Spring.

  10. To second what others are saying on here, my property values are up in recent years. About 15% since 2010.

    As a homeowner, I’m looking forward to having more people living here so that we can better support retail and walkable amenities. Areas with retail and walkable amenities have increased property values. If development keeps occurring in South Silver Spring, we could see very large property value increases compared with how the national housing market is going.

  11. mickey says:

    Correction on my part – independent economists from the Greater Capital Area Board of Realtors suggest a five percent drop in value in DTSS. Plenty of relevance !

  12. mickey says:

    Define ‘walkable amenity’ , please?
    How do you support retail when you already have customer demand in the area ? There are plenty of demands for Trader Joe or other retailers that we might frequent, but the commercial entities won’t choose this location because they can’t break even with high commercial rental prices, even with a strong consumer appetite.
    Also, the optimism about how retail creates a community identity belies the fact that some consumer goods people will only buy online rather than at the store location. And, if it is something that people need to experience directly, like good food, the crowds at Fajita Coast currently demonstrate that if you have the right product, you will have the consumer base. But if you have the wrong product, or too much overhead, you won’t invest. Weigh the costs (rental price) against the benefits (strong consumer base). If the costs outweigh the benefits, you don’t invest. Increasing the demand for a product doesn’t mean that the retail will still be successful … in fact, it might be counterproductive – why go to a place if I have to wait 15 minutes to check out, when I can order online or go to a less busy location (or get seated faster for a restaurant).

  13. JGE1023 says:

    I agree, one of the biggest factors of property value growth over the past decade has been walkability to amenities. The more people there are that live walking distance to a retail location, the more enticing it is for businesses. The 5,000 units of housing that are planned for the downtown Silver Spring area for the next few years will inevitably bring more businesses to the area and fill the currently vacant retail spaces.

  14. Bruce McDowell, PhD says:

    what is the definition of an amenity, JGE ?
    In my mind, more retail is only one type of amenity, albeit a privately held one, not one in the public domain. But it is the only type of amenity. If retail is the definition of “amenity”, then some people gain by it, some people don’t gain by it. Some can afford the prices at the store and buy its goods and services, others cannot afford the prices and won’t buy it or they prefer a different type of good and service that is offered.
    Economists will argue with your premise and say that amenities are not, however, market goods. Rather, amenities are those that every member of the community can enjoy, WITHOUT cost. An amenity in SSS I look forward to is the new library, for example, whenever that is ever built and constructed. The key piece of an amenity is its universal access and that it is in the public domain. So, retail, by definition is exclusionary (because of cost and/or preference), just as a park can be enjoyed by all without cost.
    Oh, by the way, there are fiscal costs to new residential buildings, it is not just pure revenue that streams into the County. And these costs – to provide additional services to the new residents in the building – are GREATER than the cost of maintenance of a park. As many land economists note, the idea of development as a revenue raiser for a municipality is a myth propagated by the real estate industry. It actually is a revenue LOSER with residential development.

  15. Maxwell says:

    I support this point of view. Putting in another building will not make or break this community. A park is always nice, but there is Jessup Blair, Rock Creek and Sligo Creek all withing a walk, long walk or short drive of this neighborhood. They are big, beautiful parks. There is a really great bike trail to Bethesda and beyond close by. Are streets are lined with beautiful trees and NOAA’s grounds are lovely. I don’t feel like this neighborhood is so overdeveloped with no green space. This isn’t Manhattan, where I can see the need for a small parcel of land to be a park, it’s Maryland.

    I have lived on Eastern Ave for over two years now and love it here. I see lots of room for growth in our community. I moved here because of that potential and don’t want to see it stifled. I don’t see potential new residence turning away from our community because there is no park at 8001 Newell. There isn’t one there now and I still moved here. And if there was a high rise residential building there I would have still bought here.

    I am sure a lot of the negative feedback is motivated by the inconvenience of living next to a construction zone. Also the potential loss of a view. I get it. I lost my view to the Orion and lived with the mess of both the Orion and the Galaxy going up. But eventually it was over and I now live on a really cool block. The new residence have added a nice vibe and improved safety. I feel apart of something now, not just in a building among parking lots.

    We are too close to Metro to not develop that site. Also, Silver Spring is not a bedroom community anymore. It is an urban place. This is what happens when you live in a desirable, dynamic place…it gets developed and raises your property value. If this is something you are not into then maybe Silver Spring is no longer the community for you.

Leave a Reply

Looking for something?

Use the form below to search the site:

Still not finding what you're looking for? Drop a comment on a post or contact us so we can
take care of it!