Virginia Democratic Party Chairwoman Susan Swecker is in studio. And Aisha Braveboy, candidate for Prince George's State's Attorney, joins us.
We continue our discussion in Silver Spring, exploring how small businesses have fared in the newly developed downtown. We’ll also look to the future, and what a new Transit Center, the Purple Line and the coming of a Live Nation music venue will mean for the residents of Silver Spring.
MR. KOJO NNAMDIFrom the new civic building at Veteran's Plaza in Silver Spring, Md., welcome to "Kojo In Your Community." The last 10 years brought radical change to Silver Spring and it's still changing. The civic building we're standing in just opened in July. There's a brand new library going up and the rock music venue that sparks some debate. There are plans for a new transit center that one day is supposed to include the Purple Line. With all of these new projects under way, we have to ask, doesn't Silver Spring ever get tired of change? Apparently not. With big plans ahead, it may be a good time to ask what went well in the past and what could be done better. What will these changes mean for you and for your neighborhood? Joining us to help facilitate this discussion is Kathy Stevens. Kathy Stevens is the president of the Citizens Advisory Board of Silver Spring. Kathy, thank you for joining us.
MS. KATHY STEVENSThank you, Kojo.
NNAMDIAlso with us is Manny Hidalgo. Manny is the executive director of the Latino Economic Development Corporation. That's an organization that works with small businesses in the Washington region. Manny, thank you for joining us.
MR. MANNY HIDALGOThank you, Kojo.
NNAMDIAnd Casey Anderson is a community activist and blogger with Greater, Greater Washington. He's also a member of the Citizens Advisory Board in the Washington area Bicyclist Association. Casey, thank you very much for joining us.
MR. CASEY ANDERSONThank you.
NNAMDIAnd I do have to ask some basic questions about exactly what is going to happen. Is the Purple Line coming for sure, Kathy?
STEVENSYou ask me in front of all these people to say...
STEVENS...whether it's coming for sure?
STEVENSIt's my understanding it is and I sure hope so because we need it.
NNAMDIWell, I'd like to hear from you. What are your concerns about the Purple Line? What are your concerns about the new Fillmore, the Live Nation building that's being erected here in Silver Spring even as we speak? How do you think development in Silver Spring is affecting small businesses, all the small cafés and restaurants that have traditionally been here? Yes, ma'am.
MS. CONSTANCE WYNNHello, Kojo. I'm Constance Wynn and I'm also on the Silver Springs Citizens Advisory Board. And I know one of the main issues that the development has caused in Silver Spring, traffic. Traffic safety and the congestion. I've been here for over 15 years and now it takes about a half hour to get from the Silver Spring Metro, driving to my house only about a mile away. So I'd like to know, what are the plans for improving the traffic flow and also improving the safety, particularly with the construction of the new library.
NNAMDIThe plans for improving traffic flow and improving safety. Other concerns? Here is someone in the rear. Go ahead, please.
KATHYMy name is Kathy and I'm totally against the Live Nation building. You talk about young people. I've lived in Silver Spring for 30 years. I work in downtown Silver Spring. I've worked there for 16 years. And there's a whole different make-up of people in the daytime and in the evening on the weekends in Silver Spring. Teenagers take up that whole area that's closed off. They have to have police around all the time. And I just think it's totally inappropriate to have another rock type establishment in Silver Spring.
KATHYI helped save the Silver Theatre and shopping center and I’m really proud of that. I've worked as an activist maybe 30 -- 20, 30 years ago so I've really seen Silver Spring change. I've raised my kids here. My son was a skateboarder and a -- skating probably ruined every railing in Silver Spring at the time. But he was a skateboarder and a roller blader. And I am totally opposed to that. It's already running 2 million, 2 to $3 million over budget.
NNAMDIIt was initially supposed to cost the county $8 million. It's now costing $11.2 million, $3 million more than was initially anticipated. And the library has had $3 million cut from its funding. Go figure.
KATHYRight. And Marc Elrich on the county council has brought that to the country council's attention. It's been in the paper and nothing's been done about it. People are concerned in my neighborhood because there are already gangs down there at -- on weekend nights. People like me and my age and this young lady here, they don't really enjoy going, except to the, you know, Silver Theater and shopping center. It's a different make-up. And I do want to address something she said about City Place. Somebody else has bought that and I just hope they will bring some nicer stores into that area.
NNAMDICasey Anderson, we've already heard about traffic. We've heard about safety. We've heard objections to Live Nation because of safety, because of the amount of people who are going to be out there. What say you?
ANDERSONWow, have we got another couple hours? That's a lot to divide out. On the traffic issues, I think one of the issues we have is that Silver Spring was developed in sort of a -- and most of Montgomery county was developed in a classic suburban model of land use and transportation infrastructure, you know, built around people driving their cars. And now, Silver Spring -- it's not just a question if it will urbanize, it's already urbanized.
ANDERSONMost of the southern part of Montgomery county inside the Beltway and out both ends of the Redline is already the city. And it's not a question of if we're going to have an urban area. It's whether we'll have good urbanism or bad urbanism. So I think that one of the things we have to do, and the Purple Line will help with this, is to make the transition to retrofit our suburban sort of style of living, to adapt that to a more urban pattern of not only how we get around, but how we do things generally.
ANDERSONAs for Live Nation, you know, I'm sort of two minds about this. As I was listening to this last panel, listening to people talk about all the problems we have and all the things that we have yet to do and all the ways in which we've failed, you know, in some sense, as an activist, I can understand that and I don't begrudge people their complaints. But on the other hand, I have to think about when I moved here 10 years ago and the place where we're sitting right now was basically a giant hole in the ground and all the many failed attempts to redevelop downtown Silver Spring.
ANDERSONSo I think we ought to have a reality check and think about how -- the successes that we've had, both economically and also in making it a much more vibrant place for everybody. I mean, I live across the street from the skate park that was built. Yeah, we got to build more skate parks and more of a lot of things. We got a better staffing of the library. We have to work on inclusion. But we're making progress on all those fronts and I could not be happier that I made the choice to move here 10 years ago from Capital Hill.
ANDERSONIf I had it to do over again, I'd move here all over again. I wouldn't go to Bethesda. I wouldn't go back to the District. This is where I want to be. And I think that we all have to remember that the glass is half full.
NNAMDIOkay. And now, you, Joe Davidson. Not the Joe Davidson who writes the federal diary column for the Washington Post, this is Silver Springs, Joe Davidson.
MR. JOE DAVIDSONHi. In 1978, two things arrived in Silver Spring, the Metro and my family. Since then, I've raised two children, been very happy. But I'd like to remind people that downtown Silver Spring does not begin and end on Ellsworth Street. There's a lot of businesses struggling, really good businesses, coffee shops, stores, et cetera on Georgia Avenue, Bonifant, Thayer, et cetera. What development plans are there to attract more people to leave Ellsworth Street and go past these businesses?
NNAMDIManny Hidalgo, what has development meant for small businesses in Silver Spring, Md? We see a lot of chain stores coming to Silver Spring, Md as they develop, but how has that affected small businesses and what are your hopes for the future of small businesses, all the cafés and stores that Silver Spring has become renowned for?
HIDALGOWell, one of the things you need in any sort of urban renewal or any sort of redevelopment effort is the right mix of stores, of retail, of people, of income, of housing options. And, I think, what's really helped with the redevelopment of downtown Silver Spring is more of that mix, that they've been able to bring in some well known anchors, you know, like Borders. They've been able to come up with a multi-plex theater that brings people from all over. And I feel like the downtown section, you know, although it is predominately national chain stores, there are a few really good local gems right in there, like, Ceviche's, like Cake Love, like McGinty's .
HIDALGOAnd I think that, you know, what we need to do is a better job of making sure that people that come to downtown Silver Spring also leave, you know, leave downtown Silver Spring. And, I think, that's happening slowly but surely. And part of what we've done is help organize, as much as possible, the locally owned businesses. And also educate consumers about the fact that when they spend a dollar in a locally owned business, that it circulates three times more in the local economy.
HIDALGOBut I don't think there should ever be packaged as a, either you -- you know, patronize national chains or you patronize local, no. You should patronize all the stores in the area and you should just make a point to, if at all possible -- there's a national movement actually that says, you know, switch 10 percent. If at all possible, try to switch 10 percent of your shopping to a locally owned retailer, locally owned mom and pop. That, in and of itself, has a huge impact on the local economy. So that's what we're asking people to consider doing.
NNAMDIThis is Lenae Siguya (sp?), she owns a locally business here in -- a local business here in Silver Spring. Tell us about it and how it's been doing.
MS. LENAE SIGUYAWell, we've been here since 1996 and the new development, it's a good thing. We -- because of the community, we're still here. It's been...
NNAMDIWhat's the name of your business?
SIGUYAKefa Café. Right on Bonifant.
NNAMDIIf all of these people are coming, you should be doing all right.
SIGUYAWell, you know what, if it was not for the community, we would not be here. So we're really thankful.
NNAMDIHow has the development affected you? Have you been doing more or less business during the course of the past five years or so?
SIGUYAWell, you know, the way we look at it, eventually it will be and we just keep our faith and we'll -- it will work. It's not -- it's going to take time. I'm not expecting it to be better than the first year, two years. But eventually it will.
NNAMDIManny Hidalgo, this is the kind of business that you're saying that people, when they come to Silver Spring, should not just look at, well, one street, but they should look around.
HIDALGOAbsolutely. And it's -- I mean, if you talk to the people here, anybody that's been at all civically engaged has -- I mean, I bet you, literally, all of us, if not definitely 90 percent of us, have, at one point, met at Kefa Café and planned to change the world or at least start with changing Silver Spring. Frankie Blackburn -- I don't know. I mean, the very first time I met Frankie Blackburn was in Kefa Café. And Karen Roeper (sp?) and all kinds of folks. Probably Jen Nettles (sp?). I mean, you name it, people come there, not just to get coffee, but to see who else is there and to engage in conversation. Kathy, I met with you there. So it's an amazing place because it really has become -- somebody referenced earlier, this is our living room.
HIDALGOAnd it's -- you know, this could be an extension of a living room that already exists already over at Kefa Café. And so I think that's the challenge, right? Is to get that connection between this space and that space. And the beauty of it is that it's walkable and it's just down the street and it really only takes one time, one day, choosing -- hey, maybe instead of Starbucks, I'll go try Kefa. And before you know it, you find yourself going there again and again and again. So it's about patronizing all the options here.
NNAMDILoyday (sp?) , is that how your name is pronounced?
LOYDAYYes, it is. I actually moved to this area right when everything started shifting. and I absolutely love the development. But at some point, I think you guys have to change the perspective to actually look to catering to the people who live here, versus catering to bring people from the outside. So I'm a musician, too. So the whole idea of Live Nation, I guess, may -- you may think that it would cater to people who love music, but I -- this is actually the first time I've heard of Live Nation coming here and I don't understand why.
LOYDAYThere's so much more you could do with your resources and there's a lot of venues on a much smaller scale that could be developed or encouraged to do more with them. But to bring Live Nation here, it seems as if it's just a way to bring people from the outside in. Which is a good idea, except for the fact that I think you need to focus on the people that are here, too, and what we want as well. And it doesn't sound like I've heard anyone say, yeah, Live Nation.
NNAMDIWell, do you also know that the 930 Club has sued because it would like to come here instead of Live Nation?
LOYDAYI would actually appreciate something as small as 930 Club than Live Nation.
NNAMDIWe're coming to you live from the new civic building in Silver Spring, Md. It's "Kojo In Your Community." I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
NNAMDIWelcome back to the new civic building in Silver Spring, Md. We're talking about development here, how it's affected the lives of people living here. And now, here is Karen.
KARENThank you very much. I did meet Manny at Kefa Café and I have -- I'm with one of the local civics. And I've worked with his organization for two years to put together and organize the small businesses, the one group here that is completely neglected. Outside of this mall downtown, but still in the CBD, the central business district, are over 200 independent small businesses who employee more than 1500 of your neighbors. The two little programs that this county has for them are insufficient and so narrowly focused that they don't make a difference.
KARENWe are going to lose them as our character and we're going to lose them -- that economy because they have not been made -- their survival is not priority in this county. The $4 million to bring Costco to Wheaton to create three jobs -- 300 jobs, for a fraction of that, you can save your character and 1500 of your neighbor's jobs. And the county needs to make that a priority and there are ways to do that and they are gone. They are gone if we don't make that a priority. Not tomorrow, not next year, today, right now, with the new council. Thank you.
NNAMDIWe are in Silver Spring, Md. Gus Bowman, we've all heard about this development over the past 20 years in Silver Spring, Md. How did it all come about? How did it happen?
MR. GUS BOWMANWell, for those who have been talking about this tonight, the plan we wrote 17 years ago is the plan we've been implementing for 17 years. When I contacted the American Film Institute about coming to the abandoned Silver Theatre I was attacked by a citizens group here who thought you can't have an outside organization come in, even if it's to save the abandoned, deteriorating Silver Theatre. AFI came. The chain stores came. What people have to remember is that the downtown was being abandoned by the 90,000 people living around here. No one was coming here. The small shops, the mom and pop shops, they were dying and on the vine.
MR. GUS BOWMANSo the plan was is to bring in some big stuff and the downtown is so big on a street grid system that we knew if we could get people to come back and to live here in the apartment buildings that we planned for, that then the smaller businesses would start coming back, which is what's been happening with restaurants and shops. The restaurants and shops that are making it, the small businesses on the side streets are the ones that have nice exteriors, inviting doorways, good signage, no different than the big stores. And those small business people are getting it.
MR. GUS BOWMANFor those who don't get it, they do go away. But they get replaced by smarter, small business people. And that's what's been going on. So the plan was to have a thousand things going on here. Not 10 things or 100 things, but 1,000. To bring in a courthouse, to bring in a transit center, to bring in a library. It goes on and on and on. The civic building we're sitting in. And then private development and reinvestment would come in.
MR. GUS BOWMANThe last thing I just want to say is people have to understand, in terms of money, the money that it takes to get a new library, the money that it took to get a new courthouse, that only comes from an elected representative body if you can show that you're bringing in taxes and that you're not losing. And we were losing the tax base here big time throughout the '70s and '80s. We had to turn that around. The big story that's not been told by anybody is the tax base here has risen dramatically, which allows for the reinvestment of a new library, the transit center and on and on and on.
NNAMDIWhat kind of businesses would you like to see in downtown Silver Spring? Raise your hand, I'll get to you.
MS. JANE REDIKERI'm Jane Rediker. I'm president of the greater Silver Spring Chamber of Commerce. And I wanted to take off on what Gus just said and mention that the Chamber's an active and vibrant organization today because there are so many active and vibrant businesses. And we represent a lot of the small businesses. And I think when you talk about the big chains that come in, we talk about the large businesses. If you look at our membership base, and it's typical of chambers around the country, our membership base, only three percent of our members are large, large companies.
MS. JANE REDIKEREighty-five percent of our members are companies that have fewer than 25 employees. Fifty-three percent of our members have fewer than five employees. So our members are the small businesses in the community. And what's important to know is even with a lot of the chains, those are locally owned franchises. So those are local people in the community who have brought a business in here. And as Gus said, it's those people who are supporting what -- all these other programs that need to happen and to keep the community the vibrant place that we can help everybody else in the community.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE 1Yeah, we...
NNAMDIWhat is your question or comment?
1Yeah, we would like to have small business plans competitions annually to help motivate, you know, innovation 'cause people got ideas, they just need funding and stuff like that.
NNAMDIKathy Stevens is the president of the Citizens Advisory Board of Silver Spring. Kathy, what do you think about that? Can you take it under advisement?
STEVENSCertainly we can take it under advisement. This is the point -- you know, it's great, Kojo, that you're having this dialogue for us tonight. We have so many opportunities for ongoing conversation and dialogue. I'm sure an idea like this, to have a small business competition, could be taken to the Chamber of Commerce, could be taken to the Citizens Advisory Board, could be taken to many other places in the community. And I love that ideas come out and I'm going to encourage the person who brought up that idea to come see one of us after this discussion so that we can get that on the agenda at our various meetings that go on in the community.
STEVENSMontgomery College, that brings so many students to this area every day and think about the opportunities here for great ideas like that with a great population of students that are coming, the people who live here, all of that. And you just see there's so many wonderful ideas out there that -- it's great for folks to put ideas out there, but there's so many of us in the community that have these ongoing conversations. We would love for you to be a regular part of that.
NNAMDIAnd now, the young woman who just lost the microphone.
MS. EUGENIA PARKMy name is Eugenia Park. I just want to make sure that -- some of us who live in Silver Spring do not skateboard. We dance tango. And for that, my wish is to have a dance floor or dance studio that is accessible to everyone. Thank you very much. And if community center is planned, please make one room that has hardwood floor that we can teach the dance and we can dance. I've met a lot of my -- I've seen a lot of my students here and we're always for the same thing, that's one.
MS. EUGENIA PARKAnother thing I want to mention is that we're very grateful to the planners and developers of the Silver Spring. I've lived here for 31 year. I came straight from the boat from Soviet Union. And to see the Silver Spring blooming into what it is today, it's really wonderful. And the third thing -- no, it's not second. It's three that I have. AFI theater, what a wonderful place to be. Wonderful place for diversity. The festivals that they have, the activities that they have are fantastic. Please support them.
MS. EUGENIA PARKFor example, today, it's an opening night for the Latin film festival and it's going to last only 10 days. There are festivals from Europe. There are festivals from Africa. Their silver duck's well known. Please come and support. We need to have these places attended very well to keep going.
NNAMDILet me get this...
PARKThank you very much.
NNAMDILet me get this straight. You came here from Moscow, but you want to tango and you want to promote the Latin festival.
PARKIt's Silver Springs. It's Silver Springs. I teach...
NNAMDIThat -- I got the answer.
NNAMDII got the answer.
PARKAnd I absolutely love good films.
NNAMDIIt's Silver Spring, is the answer somebody gave me. Yes, sir. And your name is Jack?
JACKYeah. I got a couple of things to say. First, I'd like to comment on what one of the ladies said about, like, gangs. Like, just because you see, like, a group of kids just gathering together doesn't mean, necessarily, they're a gang. And like -- and another thing I'd like to say is, like, not only the skaters, but also the youth, since we're, like, a big group and, like, we're close together, we can talk about what we want, but you guys see us as youth, right?
JACKAnd we're not just youth, we're individuals. And we're not stupid. We understand what you guys talk about and we want to be part of it, but you won't let us 'cause all you see us as is youth and we're just children. But you have to put us part of it so we can tell you what we want, not for you to think what we want.
NNAMDIThank you very much. And you also had something to say, Chris.
CHRISYes. I'm sorry to change the topic about businesses and stuff, but talking about public space. You said this is public, right? So everybody can come in. If everyone can come in, then how come 15 of my friends that are skaters were not let in by security? If that's so, that this is public and if that's so that we have a word into what we want to believe in, then how come my friends and who I consider family to me are not let into this building speaking their mind?
NNAMDIAre your friends still outside?
CHRISI have no idea because they decided to leave. And they're probably still outside and I can bring them -- every one of them in here because...
NNAMDIIf they are still outside, we'll be here for here 15 or 20 minutes, go outside and bring them in. And they'll be brought in during the course of the discussion. We do have someone else over here who wants to say something. Go ahead, please, sir.
ERICHi. I'm Eric and I've lived here about six years. And -- oh, I'm sorry. I'm going to go back to the corporate thing 'cause that was what I wanted to talk about. But the first couple of years I was here, I really didn't like it because, like, the only thing I really knew is the downtown. Like, you know, you're here, where do you go? You go to the downtown. And it was all this, like, corporate chain store crap. And it took me -- like, it took me, like, three years to go onto the side streets and find the small businesses and it's made me love this place a lot more.
ERICAnd I guess what I wanted to say is -- you know, there's kind of been two arguments from up front here, where I guess all the community leaders are, about why having the downtown be corporate and all the cool small businesses be in the outer reaches. And one is, like, trickledown economics, apparently. Like, you know, everyone comes to the small businesses in the center and then after a while, they sort of, like, wander out. But as I said, it took me, like, two or three years to do that. And there's no reason that all the small -- that the small businesses can't be in the downtown area and the chain stores can go out to the fringes.
ERICI mean -- and then, the second thing you say is, like, well, how are we going to do that? How are we going to do that? You know, what -- how -- and I think you can find a model here. I hope this doesn't get everyone mad. But if you look at Tacoma Park, they decided that their downtown is all the small businesses. And I think there's like a Subway, like, way down out in the fringes somewhere. And they made a decision to let, like, the small businesses be downtown. Probably they decided to charge less for rent to allow these small businesses to flourish.
ERICAnd here in Silver Spring, I guess we've decided to let all the corporate people be downtown and take all the extra rent money and use it to buy Costco's and real live media centers and stuff like that. And I think what I want to say is, like, we should realize that it's our choice to make the downtown some sort of, like, giant chain monster thing and let the, you know, the small businesses kind of sink or swim out in the fringes. And I think that maybe we should exam that choice and, you know, decide maybe -- we could use Tacoma park as the model to see how to change that.
NNAMDIManny Hidalgo, what do you think about that?
HIDALGOYeah. I mean, you know, it -- just to -- the point about Costco is a very interesting one so LEDC's Maryland office is actually in Wheaton on Price Avenue, very close to where they're going to build the Costco. So our gut reaction, at first, was, oh, there's no way that the small business here are going to go for that. So -- but rather than just go ahead and assume that we knew what small businesses wanted -- because we're not a small business, we're a non-profit that serves the whole region and we -- you know, we -- part of our mission is to help organize the voice around small businesses.
HIDALGOSo we thought what better thing to do than to bring the small businesses together and talk to the developer that wanted to bring Costco, talk to Westfield mall. And sure enough, they overwhelmingly -- the businesses themselves, the small local businesses, wanted the Costco. It was going to help them from having to schlep all the way to Beltsville or Gaithersburg to buy a lot of their products 'cause they buy a lot of their products from Costco. So it ended up being something that we advocated for because it's what the small businesses wanted. So I just don't think -- the other thing about Tacoma park, how's that working for them? Because I...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE 2It's not.
HIDALGOI don't think it is. Yeah. I think that because they came up with such a draconian approach to it and said, you know, no chains...
NNAMDIIt's a failure.
HIDALGO...it's not working. I, you know, if it's a failure, I take your word for it. I just know from the time that I actually used to work in that area, that it didn't seem particularly, at night, to have much going for it at all. And I feel that with downtown Silver Spring, what we have is an anchor and that it's really incumbent upon us, as consumers, to make the choice to get to know the area outside of the anchor. But it's a hell of an anchor. And I know just that fountain enough -- my kids love that fountain. They'll spend all summer in that fountain, if you let them. So I don't know. I just don't think we should make them an either/or, but figure out how we make it both.
ANDERSONOne of the great things about Montgomery county is that you can -- you have a choice. If you like the Tacoma park model of, you know, really bending over backwards to prevent chains and larger businesses from coming in, you can find that. If you like Bethesda and a more sort of sanitized kind of experience, you can do that.
ANDERSONIf you want to live on a farm, you can move Poolesville. But I'm glad I picked Silver Spring. But I wanted to address one of the issues about public safety. And I just want to give a shout out to Jennifer Nettles, by the way, who manages the property for Peterson. And I -- the reason I mention her is because while everybody is talking about, oh, we hate these chains and the Fenton/Ellsworth development is too corporate and it's too big. Jennifer Nettles really, you know, is the Peterson company in Silver Spring. And I can tell you from experience, she is invested in this community. She is not some corporate shell sent down here.
ANDERSONBut public safety, I think, is something that has to be addressed in the context. Somebody said gangs. Well, on the one hand, I think some of the concerns are overstated. I understand that there are people, who are my age, who feel a little uncomfortable coming downtown to Fenton and Ellsworth outside the Majestic and kind of being elbowed off the sidewalks sometimes by kids who are, you know, may think that they're just joking around, but it makes it an uncomfortable experience for some of us.
ANDERSONOn the other hand, let's not overstate the case and recognize that what we got going on here compared to -- you know, the same week that there was an incident right out in front of this building, shortly after it opened, where somebody was shoved down to the ground and broke some bones in her face by some young adults who had come up here to make trouble, about a week later, there was a very similar incident in Bethesda on the Metro. That didn't get nearly as much attention.
ANDERSONAnd I think that sometimes we have a stereotype, that we ourselves buy into, that Silver Spring is a rough place, it's down market. And I think that we ought to give ourselves some credit for the fact that we've worked a lot of this out. We're still working on it, but that really Silver Spring downtown is a safe place. I have young children. I have a six-year-old and a 10-year-old and I feel comfortable bringing them down here any hour of the evening. So let's not oversell it.
NNAMDIWell, Jennifer Nettles is on my list 'cause ever since I walked in here, everybody's been saying, you need to talk to Jennifer Nettles so I guess I better should.
MS. JENNIFER NETTLESHello, I'm Jennifer Nettles. I manage downtown Silver Spring for PFA. Do you have a question?
NNAMDINo. But I wanted to know if there was anything that Casey said that you wanted to add to because he told us a great deal about you, but he may not have told us everything.
NETTLESOkay. We are the re-developed area right around this property. We are a public private partnership. And public private partnership means that the county is our partner. We do 190 events a year for this community. We do everything from concerts to festivals to Ivory Coast embassy things. We have the -- zombie walks, which we have to give Silver Spring, Singular a shout out to, if you listen to him or read his blog. What a guy. We do Little Tots things, all kinds of events a year. The farmer's market is absolutely huge.
NETTLESIt's something that the community wanted, something that we came forward with. We really are embedded in this community to the point where we're helping fund Village Market. They're actually moving to the civic building here next year, which is going to be huge. And we just love being part of this community. It's our heart and soul.
NNAMDIWe're coming to you from the new civic building at Veteran's Plaza in Silver Spring, Md. It's "Kojo In Your Community." I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
NNAMDIThe skaters are back in the building here at the new civic building at Veteran's Plaza in Silver Spring, Md. But before we get to them, this wonderful woman, Martin, who has been very patient with us. So Martin, you get to go first.
MARTINOkay. I'm going to do something that I'm not totally comfortable -- I would -- with. I would like to have more answers before putting this issue on the table, but I'm going to put it on the table because there are so many people here who need to hear it and start working on it with me. I've been here over 18 years, after living about the same time in the District. And in that time, my hair went from dark brown to either gray or silver, depending on which Appalachian you prefer. And so now, I want to put on the table the issue of aging in place.
MARTINI love this place. I don't want to leave and there's going to come a point where it's not going to work as well for me as it is now. And I know the county has begun some work on this issue, which seems to be a lot of collaboration and clearing house-type work. And so I think it's time for everybody in this community to start thinking about the other age of the age spectrum and together we can come up with some answers by the time I and others really, really need them. Thank you.
NNAMDIKathy -- Kathy Stevens, we have heard the complaints of younger people and are probably about to hear some more. And now, we are talking about the aging population.
STEVENSI think that's a great issue to put on the table and probably not one that, as a community, we talk about enough. I know certainly it comes up from time to time in the organizations in which I'm involved. And I don't know that I have good answers right now. But again, I sound like a broken record. There are so many places to go to have this conversation, whether it's with the advisory board, whether it's with Chamber of Commerce, you know. Are the businesses meeting your needs? Casey just mentioned transit. Transit and certainly public transportation and things like that really come into play when we're talking about moving people around, whether it's our aging population or our youth.
STEVENSSo I think there are a lot of areas in which we can have this conversation. Certainly with an educational institution, Montgomery College, in our midst, we have a great lifelong learning institute at the college. There are certainly places where that will come into play. So I think it is something that should be put on the table for conversation and I encourage you to, again, find the organizations and be part of that conversation. Come yourself and bring someone else who's interested in it. That's the only way we can do this together.
NNAMDIAnd you, Debbie?
DEBBIEYeah. Hi, Kojo. I'm Debbie. I've lived in D.C. for 11 years, moved to Silver Spring after I adopted my two nieces, who are teenagers. Wanted to give them a better life and Montgomery County schools were better in Silver Spring. Also, I've been working in Silver Spring for six years and this issue hasn't been brought up. We've been talking about young people. I wanted to talk about safety for young girls. Montgomery Blair High School, I believe that downtown Silver Spring is like the backyard. Once school is out, the kids are all running around in the downtown area.
DEBBIEMy niece, who is 17, was coerced into a car at Whole Foods on a Saturday night and another niece, on her way to school in the morning, was harassed by a Ride On bus driver. And we've filed all these complaints, but I think when we were talking about law enforcement and youth, that young girls are particularly at risk. And this feeds into the Fillmore or Live Nation. When you bring alcohol in a venue like that, there may be more crime and more violence and this may affect young women who are walking on the streets or hanging out with their friends.
DEBBIEI walk -- I live in D.C. -- I live in Silver Spring and work in Silver Spring and I walk to work, to and from. And sometimes, because I work in a non-profit, I leave the office at 10:00 or 11:00. And I know you have the red coats, the guys on the bicycles or the escorts, but I don't think that's well known. And I think that there are services that Silver Spring offers for women that could help protect them. And I think when we're thinking about development, bringing in an alcohol venue or even a night club is great. I'm 33 years old. I would love Fillmore or Live Nation and I'm sure my teenage nieces would love it too, but I don't think they realize the risks that are involved. And if you're paying $11 million for it, how much of that is going into law enforcement and security?
NNAMDISpeaking of youth -- and thank you very much, Debbie. Speaking of youth, we mentioned that the skaters are back in the house so we go back there. Yes, sir, Chris.
CHRISIt took about five minutes and I brought every single one of them back. And you can ask probably, what, 80 percent of the ones that are back that they were not let in. And we had even trouble coming back in, when even you said that I should bring them back.
NNAMDIWhat do you see as the problem?
CHRISYou guys don't want to hear us. All we're asking is for a little time and we can be patient. I probably -- it's been a year since I went to the first meeting about the skate park and what they gave us was really the most smallest they can possibly give. I go there practically every day possible I can go after school. It's an hour bus ride every day. And they even stop -- they shut it down after, like, probably, like, eight o'clock because when the sun goes down, you can't skate it anymore. And we have park police, police officers always surveilling it to make sure that everything is all right.
CHRISBut what they don't notice, when about 70 skaters come to that one spot, people are still getting hurt. When one person goes, another person goes, probably have music on and they don't see each other. Then they crash into each other and then they get hurt and that's what starts problems. You guys decide to try to help. You guys heard us once and then you push us aside. If you want something good -- and that will actually help more than -- not only in this community, but in other communities outside of Silver Spring. All we ask is for you to hear us.
NNAMDIAnd I think what you have observed this evening, as you were here initially and we tried to make sure you got back in, is that you were heard, not only in this room, but you will be heard by thousands of listeners to this broadcast. And what I would urge you to do is to keep organizing and keep being activists so that you continue to be heard. But thank you very much for having that patience with us. Yes, sir.
MR. ULYSSES GLEEHi. My name is Ulysses Glee. I'm a local developer. And I guess you may say I have some nerve for being here, but I want to say -- I want to thank this community for what they are doing for me. Because if it were not for this community, I would not be developing a hotel at the corner of Fenton Street and Silver Spring Avenue. I started several years ago. And if it were not for The Fenton Group -- I mean, The ESCO Group, it would not be possible. I also want you to know that the podium part of this is being developed, and right now a dance studio in the existing building is being developed and renovated for a dance studio.
NNAMDIWill they be able to tango in there?
GLEEThey can tango and twist and everything else they want to do. But I want -- I want to assure you that the other space, that's commercial space, that's being developed, I will do everything to keep my commitment that a local business will have some of that space there. But again, if it were not for this community -- I'm a small developer, but it's a -- we have now an approved Marriott franchise being developed there and it's all because of this community. Thank you very much.
NNAMDIThank you. Yes, sir.
DAVIDHi. I'm David and I'm a small business owner of D.C. Power Stilts, which is a local business. And we've talked a lot about small local business and we also talked a lot about skating. And my views on the thing is that the two are really compatible. Because if you put a large recreational outdoor facility, like a skate park, in Silver Spring, you're going to have someone who wants to open a business right next door to it that sells Gatorade, that sells skates, that sells skateboards, you know, snow boards, whatever. I mean, you are going to bring people in. Not just kids, but also adults.
DAVIDAnd the other thing I wanted to mention is that today is actually car-free day here in the region and I skated here myself. And one thing that I noticed about Silver Spring is that as we develop it, as we build these transit centers, we're leaving off the paved trails that go out into other communities, for example, connecting Silver Spring to the metropolitan branch trail in an off-road fashion.
NNAMDIWe're running out of time. Very quickly -- thank you very much. Could you tell me your name and what you do for a living?
MS. LETTY HOLMANI'm Letty Holman and I work with you, Kojo, at WAMU.
NNAMDIWhat exactly do you do at WAMU?
HOLMANI'm the manager of programming and research.
NNAMDIDo you live in Silver Spring?
NNAMDIDo you have any questions or comments?
HOLMANI've enjoyed this tremendously, and...
NNAMDIThat's enough. We have to cut you off. Here you go. Yes, sir.
MR. EVAN GLASSMy name is Evan Glass. I'm actually president of the South Silver Spring Neighborhood Association which just five years ago didn't even exist. It is part of the reason so many people are coming to downtown Silver Spring, because of the transportation issues we just mentioned. People can live here without having a car. They can walk to public transportation, the bus, the Redline. They can go food shopping. They can go to all the restaurants in the downtown core without driving. And it's really one of the appeals to living in this area. And as we continue to develop, we need more businesses and more office places to actually come here so people can live and work here, thus reducing all the car congestion that some people perceive the area to be full of and also just letting the area flourish holistically.
NNAMDICasey Anderson, we've heard a great deal about the walkability of Silver Spring. How is the bikeability?
ANDERSONWell, a lot of people think I'm crazy, including my wife, because I bike down Georgia Avenue into D.C. and into Piney Branch Road sometimes. There was a gentleman back there that mentioned the metropolitan branch trail which would connect the Silver Spring Metro station to the bike path that goes through Tacoma Park to Piney Branch Road. That would be a huge, huge step forward, not just for people who are bicyclists, but anybody who wants to walk through or bike through or rollerblade or run a baby stroller or whatever.
ANDERSONIf you want to go on foot or on -- under your own power through Silver Spring to reach -- to go out to a movie at the Majestic Theater, to come to McGinty's to have a beer, to go down to the new record store south of Wayne Avenue on Georgia, any of those things, right now you have to walk down a very unpleasant streetscape that's really pretty much a traffic sewer where all the car traffic is going, you know, 40, 45, 50 miles an hour, unless it's rush hour, in which case it's so jammed up, people can't drive that fast.
ANDERSONIf we had better pedestrian and bicycling facilities, I think we could do a lot, not only to make it a more pleasant place to live, but to encourage the kind of development that everybody here is talking about wanting to see happening south of Wayne Avenue. Where you get people -- you get the kind of shops that people want to be able to visit on foot, to meander along if they see something in a storefront they want to check out, they'll -- they're much more likely to do that if they're on foot than if they're blowing by in their car at 40 miles an hour.
NNAMDIAnd what do you have to say?
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN 1Just two things. Going off of that to the woman who lives one mile away and it takes her about an hour to get home, walk. Walk home. I work at a non-profit -- and if you can't, find some other way. But, like, I work at a non-profit over there. I walk all over Silver Spring. You can walk to Tacoma Park, if you're young and fit, in 15 minutes. It's not that big of a deal. Number two, how long have we been studying crime? If you keep marginalizing youth and pushing them out and calling them a gang, they're going to become a gang. They're going to get angry and they're going to fight back and push back so much. Do you want them to wind up in jail? Because that's what you're going to do.
NNAMDIAnd we have the last comment here. Please try to make your comment brief.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN 2Okay. I am considering moving to Silver Spring. I worked here 35 years ago, and I lived here 35 years ago. I worked at the local Giant and I am not working here. I have two homes, one here and one in Chicago. And so I wanted to say that I've been very impressed with what I see, in terms of Silver Spring now. One of the things that's attractive to me is the mix of business. In fact, because of the discovery thing, I discovered a Cuban restaurant around here and I just got the verde and I went, oh, my gosh, this exists? So I think that's a good thing. The one thing I would like to say is maybe you might want to look at your apartments and your leasing.
2I'm not sure what, you know, rules and structures and what body you have overlooking that, but I've had a few problems with that. But the other thing I wanted to say really quickly is that...
2...I would have appreciated when I went in to look at some of these apartments and leases, it would have been great to see maybe a brochure with all the activities and the restaurants and the small businesses because that would be something that would also interest me.
NNAMDIThank you very much. I'm afraid that's all the time we have. Manny Hidalgo, Kathy Stevens, Casey Anderson, thank you for joining us. "The Kojo Nnamdi Show" is produced by is produced by Ingalisa Schrobsdorff, Brendan Sweeney, Tara Boyle, and Michael Martinez, with help from Kathy Goldgeier and Elizabeth Weinstein. Diane Vogel is the managing producer. The engineers today, Jonathan Sherry and Kelan Quigley. Everyone at WAMU, including Letty Holman, helps to make "Kojo In Your Community" happen. We'd like to thank all of them. Thanks to WAMU's volunteers, Kathleen O'Brien, Janice Low, and Debra Lamont.
NNAMDIWe appreciate the assistance of the folks here at the civic building, but most of all, thank you for choosing to spend your evening with us. Please give yourselves a warm round of applause. This has been "Kojo In Your Community," from the new civic building at Veteran's Plaza in Silver Spring. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
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