New development planned in Downtown Silver Spring

Nov. 9, 2006, midnight | By Hareesh Ganesan | 17 years, 6 months ago

County officials release plans for new public venues, programs to ease area congestion

The Montgomery County Planning Board presented an overview of the county master plan on Sept. 28 that proposed additional development in Downtown Silver Spring, including the construction of a skateboard facility in Fenton Gateway Park, a combination ice rink-entertainment pavilion on the corner of Fenton Street and a renovated Silver Spring Metro Station.

According to Glenn Kreger, the planning team leader for Silver Spring and Takoma Park, the county is collaborating with local businesses to continue their revitalization efforts that began in February 2000 with renewed residential, recreational and commercial development.

But new development plans may face resistance from Silver Spring residents due to existing traffic and overpopulation concerns. "I think development is happening too fast. We need to provide more recreational facilities for people of all ages," Kreger explained.

One potential facility highlighted in the presentation was a new skateboard facility in the Fenton Gateway Park at Fenton Village, which received support from local skateboarders. Minutes from the April 11, 2005 Silver Spring Citizen's Advisory Board meeting read that many members thought that "a skateboard park would be a good way to keep kids out of trouble."
Junior Michael Willems, a skateboarder and Silver Spring resident, believes that Silver Spring skateboarders need their own skateboard facility.

According to Willems, since skateboarders are only allowed to skate in a few places, many must commute to other parts of the county. "Most business is going to skate parks in Gaithersburg. We've been kicked out," Willems said. Many rails in Downtown Silver Spring have metal bars on them to prevent skating. "We call them skate blockers," Willems said. "They are 12-inch pieces of steel placed on concrete ledges."

The Planning Board also proposed construction of an ice rink to replace the artificial turf on the corner of Fenton Street and Ellsworth Drive. The ice rink would become a concert pavilion in the summer.

Senior Emanuel Waktola said the ice rink would be a good way to attract visitors, as he currently uses the Wheaton Ice Arena. But Waktola does not believe that the ice rink should replace the turf.

Gary Stith, director of the Silver Spring Regional Services Center, explained that the county believed Astroturf would not work in the long term. "The artificial turf is already starting to look a little ratty," he said.

The county plans to ease traffic concerns by renovating mass transit facilities. The presentation included a development plan by the Montgomery County Department of Public Works and Transportation to transform the Silver Spring Metro Station into a larger, regional transit center by early 2009.

The new station would support Metro, Maryland Rail Commuter train, Ride On Bus and inter-city buses. Stith said that approximately 45 percent of employees in the area use public transportation to commute to work daily.

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