In responding to presentations by the two finalists that submitted proposals for the site of the former Silver Spring Library, I am representing Montgomery Preservation Inc (MPI), the countywide nonprofit preservation advocacy organization.
MPI believes the Gudelsky/CentroNia proposal is by far the better of the two. It incorporates the existing library building, an icon of Montgomery Modern architecture designed by Rhees Burket, a noted architect with a lifetime of civic and professional leadership. It is a flagship structure, constructed early in the then-new Montgomery County Library System when other towns operated facilities out of smaller makeshift buildings. Adaptive reuse of this building will commemorate this history as well as provide ongoing community benefit for the residents of Silver Spring and Montgomery County.
The library is a long-time iconic community structure that, with its green space, is compatible with the physical and residential character of the surrounding neighborhood. Unlike the Victory Housing proposal, the Gudelsky/CentroNia plan retains the site’s green space and topography and incorporates it with the neighboring park. As density increases in parts of the County like Silver Spring, it’s important to retain green space that has historically been an amenity in existing communities and neighborhoods (hopefully even to provide more). Victory, MPI has noted, would preserve very little of the library site’s green space.
The Gudelsky plan to subsidize a grouping of senior affordable units in new or existing apartment buildings in the Silver Spring CBD is a creative approach and one that could be adopted for other planned apartment construction in the county, helping to address the critical need for more affordable housing. The Gudelsky plan meets the RFP objective of increasing affordable senior units, and it would locate those units in a convenient downtown area.
In providing senior affordable housing offsite, the Gudelsky plan offers the advantage of showcasing a state-of-the art child development facility operated by a nationally recognized provider of early childhood care and education. With a strong visible presence on Colesville Road, this child development venue would be a source of pride for the County and Silver Spring, preferable to resembling an adjunct to a housing component as does Victory’s child care center.
Moreover, it seems impractical to combine both housing and child care on this relatively small site, particularly since this would allow for very little green space. This was apparent to MPI in its review of the Victory proposal. There is considerable potential for intergenerational programs in the child development center whether or not senior housing is present on the site. Gudelsky/CentroNia is projecting partnerships with senior groups, as well as enrichment activities for all ages, in its child development center.
To summarize, MPI supports preservation and adaptive reuse of the former Silver Spring Library as an excellent representative of Silver Spring and the County – architecture, parkland, community use, neighborhood support, and a historic example of mid-20th century vision and growth. The Gudelsky/CentroNia proposal undeniably corresponds with each of these qualities.
Vice President, Montgomery Preservation Inc.