Live there, shop there, but where do you park or play?
Wednesday, Oct. 4, 2006
Parking spaces and recreational areas haven’t kept pace with the development taking place in downtown Silver Spring and the surrounding neighborhoods, according to planning staff, residents and business owners.
‘‘It has an eerie resemblance to Clarksburg in the sense that the density of residential development has exceeded the infrastructure’s capacity for parking and recreation facilities unexpectedly. Not intentionally, but unexpectedly,” said Dan Meijer, a south Silver Spring resident and small business owner, during a Monday phone interview. Now, he said, priority needs to be placed on parking and parks to catch up with development that’s been approved.
Particularly in south Silver Spring, where a number of residential units have been built and more are on the way, there isn’t quite enough parking to accommodate residents, and there are few public places for children to play and adults to relax, said Glenn Kreger, Park and Planning team leader for Silver Spring and Takoma Park.
‘‘Parking’s been a big issue in south Silver Spring in particular because there’s been so much development,” Kreger said at a Thursday briefing about Silver Spring redevelopment for the Montgomery County Planning Board.
And, he added, not all developers have provided enough parking, choosing instead to pay into a parking fund designated to provide and maintain parking spaces throughout Silver Spring’s central business district.
That can be a problem, Meijer said, because even though developers pay into that fund, public parking still needs to be required somewhere. ‘‘It’s nice to approve the development but you have to produce the parking.”
Some new public garages are planned — one residential building, The Galaxy, is providing public and private parking — but Kreger said he didn’t know if those spaces would be enough to alleviate the problem.
Several south Silver Spring businesses have felt the pinch from lack of parking made worse by construction. Brenda Smoak, owner of art store Alchemy on Georgia Avenue, saidparking is a challenge because not only are there few parking spaces nearby, but many are snapped up by people coming to Mayorga Coffee Factory, Moorenko’s or to Montgomery College.
‘‘People park on my side of the street, but they don’t come to my store,” she said. ‘‘I’m losing my little bit of spaces but I’m not benefiting from it at all.”
Few people know about the nearby Kennett Street garage, Smoak said. Additionally, she said, the neighborhood could benefit from an extension of the VanGo route, a free bus that circles through the downtown and some surrounding areas.
Another issue, Kreger said, is a lack of park and recreation facilities.
‘‘We need to find ways to address the needs of all age groups,” Kreger said.
Jesup Blair Park in south Silver Spring was recently renovated, but some new residents on the opposite side of Georgia Avenue have expressed concerns about having their children cross the busy road. Currently, Kreger said, there are no new capital improvement projects planned for that area.
The artificial turf currently acting as a placeholder for a new civic building in downtown Silver Spring is a good place for people of all ages to relax and play, said Commissioner Meredith K. Wellington. However, she said, the turf will be removed when the civic building is built. The turf is a popular hangout, especially for teens.
There is a need for pocket parks in that area, which is populated with high rises, said Planning Board Chairman Royce Hanson.
‘‘Can you put something like Candy Cane City [a play area in Rock Creek Park] in an urban environment?” asked Commissioner John Robinson.
A playground built to the same extent as Candy Cane City may or may not be possible to build, Hanson said. Parks should serve people of all age groups rather than just specific ages, but ‘‘you certainly can put opportunities for children to exercise in an urban park setting,” Hanson said.