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Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Silver Spring Central Park

I recently wrote a letter to the Planning Board requesting that they study the feasibility of putting a park in Downtown Silver Spring.

The Silver Spring Central Business District (CBD) is a key location for transit-oriented development in our county. It has many advantages including access to Metro, MARC and Ride On, a thriving retail business district, abundant commercial office space and thousands of residents both inside and outside the CBD. Silver Spring's success in building an attractive urban core is a key element of the county's development strategy for the future.

One thing Silver Spring does not have is public green space. Its existing public spaces (especially the Civic Center plaza and the Ellsworth Drive plaza) are hardscapes. Its largest pocket of green space is the area behind the Discovery Communications headquarters, but that space is privately owned and is not rogrammed for public use. The District of Columbia, in contrast, has many green urban parks in its owntown. These parks are often a square block in size, have many areas for seating and are heavily used. Silver Spring deserves one too.

Silver Spring once had a public green space: the former Kughn Park. Located between Ellsworth, Fenton and Wayne, Kughn Park was developed by the owner of the then-new City Place mall in 1992 as a required public amenity. The park lasted until it was offered to Peterson, Argo and Foulger Pratt for their Downtown Silver Spring redevelopment. While it existed, Kughn Park had trees and a lawn and was used for public programming like movies and outdoor concerts.

Kughn Park is gone now, but there is an opportunity to create a new green urban park on the WMATA land to the east of the Silver Spring Transit Center (SSTC). The parcel containing the transit center is bounded by Colesville Road, Wayne Avenue, Ramsey Avenue and the train tracks. It has roughly 174,000 SF of space. The western half of it will house the SSTC. The rest of it, which fronts Colesville, Wayne and Ramsey, is not currently proposed for development. This could be a great location for green park land in the heart of Silver Spring.

I requested that the Planning Board examine the feasibility of acquiring this land and designing it as park space. Specifically, I would like a general review of costs and acquisition issues, some conceptual design ideas, and anything else that would be helpful to share with residents and the County Council in order to evaluate the idea. Finally and most importantly, I would like to engage the community to get feedback on this idea. Please share this idea with your friends and other residents below!

If the park can happen, it would provide Silver Spring residents with an important amenity that they once had and should have again.