Howard County, Maryland carved out an identity of its own as it developed from a once largely rural county to a locus of suburban and urban growth between Washington, D.C. and Baltimore, MD. A groundswell of local advocacy for safer streets, paired with philanthropic support and county leadership, resulted in one of the strongest Complete Streets policies the Coalition has seen.
Members of the Maryland Chapter of the Local Leaders Council gather in Baltimore to discuss local transit solutions.
Transit service makes walkable urban places work better for all users, but finding affordable, flexible, scalable transit is a major hurdle for communities pursuing smart growth. The Maryland Chapter of the Local Leaders Council convened a workshop in Baltimore on November 12 to dig in to what works, considering very different solutions from three very different places.
Ten elected leaders and staff brought varying concerns to the table. Mayor Gee Williams of Berlin, MD, population 4,562, is focused on accommodating visitors. “During the last ten years we’ve become a destination community – this is now our chief economic driver. The vision we are in the early stages of discussing is how we can accommodate up to 3,000 guests in a small downtown area. We also have a challenge for our residents to access downtown services every day.”
Local leaders from Western Maryland and Maryland’s Eastern Shore discuss revitalization challenges and successes.
Nearly twenty members of the Maryland Chapter of Smart Growth America’s Local Leaders Council gathered in Silver Spring, MD on Friday, March 13 for a Revitalizing Downtowns and Regional Centers for the Triple Bottom Line workshop sponsored by Smart Growth America and 1000 Friends of Maryland. Montgomery County Councilmember Hans Riemer, an Advisory Board member of the Maryland Chapter, sponsored the event at the Silver Spring Civic Building in the heart of Downtown Silver Spring.
County Executive Rushern Baker, Councilmember Roger Berliner, and County Executive Jan Gardner describe the smart growth efforts they are championing.
Over 50 local elected leaders from Maryland, including members of Smart Growth America’s Local Leaders Council, gathered on Wednesday, January 7 to discuss smart growth successes and challenges during the Maryland Association of Counties Winter Conference in Cambridge, MD. Smart Growth America and 1000 Friends of Maryland cosponsored the event.
Woodglen Cycle Track in White Flint, MD. Photo courtesy of Dan Reed, via Flickr.
Home to more than one million residents and a thriving high-tech economy, Montgomery County, MD is far from a typical American suburb.
Located adjacent to Washington, DC, the county boasts strong research and biotechnology sectors, backed by one of the region’s mostly highly-educated populations: over half of residents above the age of 25 hold a college degree or higher. Now, thanks to the work of pioneering officials like Councilmember Roger Berliner, a member of the Maryland Chapter of Smart Growth America’s Local Leaders Council, Montgomery County has another badge of honor: it’s an emerging smart growth hot-spot.
“We have wonderful schools, wonderful green space, and one third of the county is set aside as an agricultural reserve. We are the economic engine of the state of Maryland,” says Councilmember Berliner. “We have historically been a suburban community and are now experiencing the growth of urban nodes and the benefits of those nodes in areas like Bethesda, Silver Spring, and Germantown.”
Rockville Town Square in Rockville, MD. Photo by Dan Reed via flickr.
Located just outside Washington, DC to the northwest, suburban Rockville, MD is one of the largest municipalities in Maryland with a population just over 63,000. Rockville serves as the county seat of Montgomery County—the largest county in Maryland by population, with over 1 million residents.
Rockville’s Councilmember Julie Palakovich Carr, a member of the Maryland Chapter of Smart Growth America’s Local Leaders Council, is working to use transit access to help make Rockville a place with a unique identity and a strong sense of community. “Being a suburb of Washington, DC, we are struggling with traffic congestion and other issues that come with rapid growth and redevelopment,” she says. “A lot of it is just managing those things in a way that we are maintaining a good quality of life with nice neighborhoods where people can enjoy open space and parkland, while trying to envision a future where people may be using their cars less and people will be walking more and able to ride their bikes.”
Maryland local leaders participate in a walking tour of historic Downtown Frederick, MD.
Nearly two dozen Maryland members of Smart Growth America’s Local Leaders Council met last Thursday for a Downtown Revitalization Strategies workshop sponsored by Smart Growth America and 1000 Friends of Maryland. Frederick, MD Mayor Randy McClement hosted the event, providing an in-depth look at the city’s revitalization successes. Following the workshop, Richard Griffin, Director of Economic Development, and Kara Norman, Executive Director of the Downtown Frederick Partnership, led participants on a tour of Downtown Frederick that highlighted revitalization initiatives.
Mayor McClement kicked off the workshop by describing the core of Frederick’s approach to revitalization. “The City’s concentration is on Downtown Frederick. Although Frederick is not just a downtown, but 20 square miles, the downtown is the thing that drives the city.” He continued by asserting that much of Frederick’s success owes to strong partnerships. “You cannot underestimate the power of partnerships. Find them, enhance them, and use them. Every city has groups that are interested in standing up to help,” he said.
Carroll Creek Linear Park in Frederick, MD. Photo by Sarah Absetz.
Known as “The City of Clustered Spires,” Frederick is the second largest city in Maryland, with a population of 65,000 residents. Located an hour from Washington, DC and Baltimore, MD, the city boasts a 40-block downtown historic district and an unmistakable sense of place.
“Frederick is the second largest municipality in the state, but we still have a hometown feel. This is not just from the architectural character of the town, but also the character and personalities of the residents,” says Mayor Randy McClement, a member of the Maryland Chapter of Smart Growth America’s Local Leaders Council.
The city has a history of revitalization, starting in the 1970s after several major employers had left the city and massive flooding devastated downtown Frederick. The resulting flood control project was designed to double as a downtown park and economic development tool. The first phase of the park project, called Carroll Creek Linear Park, was completed in 2006, and includes pedestrian paths, water features and an outdoor amphitheater. The $15 million project brought a $50 million return on investment to the city, adding 1,500 new jobs and transforming the downtown.
Brent Bolin, Councilmember for the City of Mount Rainier, MD is building on the City’s transportation assets to create a walkable and sustainable community. “There are different eras of transportation history present in Mount Rainier. The City was incorporated as a streetcar town that borders the District of Columbia, and now we have high levels of bus service that have taken the place of the streetcars. We are trying to build on that as a community asset,” explains Councilmember Bolin, who is a member of the the Maryland Chapter of Smart Growth America’s Local Leaders Council.
Mount Rainier is a historic and diverse community of 8,500 residents with a working class history. Although the City has access to public transportation, it is struggling to fill the commercial spaces on main street. “Redevelopment of our commercial space is our biggest challenge. Rhode Island Avenue is our main street that evolved as a streetcar corridor. We have historic storefronts and infrastructure but these are an awkward fit with the automobile culture that people expect by not living in downtown DC,” says Bolin. “Finding the right mix of small businesses to service the City but also draw people from adjoining neighborhoods has been a big challenge for us. There are a lot of empty buildings on our main street.”
The City of Salisbury, MD envisions its downtown as one that is both walkable and sustainable. To complement the city’s downtown revitalization efforts, Salisbury officials and local residents met with representatives from Smart Growth America on June 11 and 12, 2014, as part of a free, grant-funded technical assistance program. Promoting pedestrian and cyclist activity downtown is a priority for the city in order to encourage residents to visit the area and patronize local businesses. Through a partnership with Smart Growth America, the City of Salisbury and its residents worked to identify solutions to challenges facing pedestrians and cyclists navigating the area.
“We want more people knowing how to discover our Downtown businesses,” said James Ireton, Jr., Mayor of the City of Salisbury. “Smart Growth America will provide us with the resources to focus our efforts on making it easier for more people to live, work, and play Downtown.”
On the first day of the workshop, residents attended an introductory presentation that discussed the current state of Salisbury’s pedestrian and cyclist network and the importance of walkability in achieving the city’s vision of a revitalized Downtown. Residents returned the following day for a bicycle tour and then walking tour to provide insight on challenges cyclists and pedestrians encounter.
In January 2014, Salisbury was one of 18 communities selected by Smart Growth America to participate in the free technical assistance program. Stretching from New Hampshire to Idaho, these communities represent major cities, suburban centers, and rural towns alike.
“We are excited to be in an elite class of cities receiving this support from Smart Growth America,” said Salisbury City Council President Jacob Day. “Salisbury’s economy can thrive with greater investments in pedestrian and cycling infrastructure and with a greater density of economic activity in the core. This grant will help us plan our evolution.”