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Sept. 18, 2008

Construction underway for new Civic Center in Downtown Silver Spring

by Fran Djoukeng, Online Entertainment and Sports Editor
A new civic center is underway for the Silver Spring area, taking over the site of the artificial turf permanently. Dubbed the "Silver Spring Redevelopment Project," the civic center is expected to be open to the public in late 2009 or early 2010 and will cover 42,000 square feet, spreading from the corner of Fenton Street to the end of Ellsworth Drive.

The site will feature a civic building and a hard-scaped plaza - "a plaza that's mostly likely to be finished in stone or concrete, as opposed to grass," according to Bill Barron, a Silver Spring-Takoma Park Community Planning Team leader. The plaza will also feature a memorial honoring veterans, an ice rink that can be converted to a stage and a pavilion providing shade and seating. Approved in June 2007 by the Montgomery County Planning Board, the civic center is estimated to cost $19.7 million, according to The Silver Spring Gazette.

The civic building will include a large foyer, a Great Hall, office space for staff members of the Silver Spring Regional Services and a lower level that will hold the Roundhouse Theater School. "The Civic Building, pavilion and plaza area [are] for the community. There will be space inside the building for events, meetings, etc.," said Robert Kronenberg, member of Maryland-National Capitol Park and Planning Commission (M-NCPPC).

Roundhouse will move from its current space, located on Wayne Avenue, to the civic building upon its completion, according to Jeff King, a Roundhouse official.

The plaza, with movable tables and chairs, will be surrounded by trees and have an adjacent walkway on the corner of Fenton Street and Ellsworth Drive. The open space is intended for non-programmed activities such as Frisbee and catch, Kronenberg said.

The Veterans Memorial will honor veterans from Montgomery County, with youth-themed artwork provided by Maryland artist Toby Mendez, Kronenberg said. The Veterans Memorial was part of the winning design in a competition held to determine the design layout for the entire civic area. The design competition had "three teams compete and the firm with the best design was picked," Marcolin said.

The ice rink, covered by a large canopy, will be available during the winter season for public skating and celebrations of winter holidays. During the remainder of the year, the ice rink will be unearthed to reveal the Pavilion, to be used for community activities and concerts. When planning for the space began, an ice rink was one of the original community requests, Barron said.

In 1998, plans for the Civic Center began when the Silver Spring Armory was torn down to make way for redevelopment projects in the downtown area. The artificial turf was then installed temporarily to stabilize the county-owned property until further development plans. In the years since its installation, the artificial turf served as a popular space among teenagers and families to eat and socialize. The change has been long in the works, and "a dialogue to promote more green in the downtown area," was the only dispute caused by the replacement, Kronenberg said.

Barron hopes the Civic Center will serves many purposes, for people of all ages. The planning board is promoting the new center as a popular community-gathering place and an attractive area for visitors and residents.

The Civic Center will have the "feel of the Rockefeller Center in New York," according to the project's urban designer, John Marcolin. "The arrangement of a hard-scaped plaza and surrounding landscape of trees will give that sense," he added.

With all the features under construction, county officials hope there is something to appease young adults. "Hopefully, teenagers will be able to engage with the skating rink and programmed and non-programmed activities," Kronenberg said.



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