MPI has always welcomed the planned Metropolitan Branch Trail as a public amenity near its property, the historic Silver Spring B&O Railroad Station at 8100 Georgia Avenue. For 15 years, MPI has met with County agencies and citizens to accommodate the Hiker-Biker Trail as it passes through Silver Spring, parallel to and across Georgia Avenue and through our property. However, as this plan moved into design stage and Progress Place was introduced into the small space that currently supports neighboring uses, it became apparent that the close-by trail alignment might so negatively impact MPI as to put us out of business. This summary is written to clarify the facts and provide accurate information regarding MPI and the proposed Trail.
In 1997, a car jumped the curb and smashed in the front door of the Silver Spring Railroad Station, and the building’s owner was ready to demolish it. The community rose up in arms, and CSX thereafter offered the Station to Montgomery County. When County government declined to take the Station, MPI stepped up to accept the building with a tiny piece of land and to raise funds to restore it. MPI and the Silver Spring Historical Society successfully nominated it to the National Register of Historic Places and to the Montgomery County Master Plan for Historic Preservation, which gave the Station the historic recognition that it deserved and made it eligible for restoration funding.
MPI independently devised restoration plans and cost estimates, then raised more than $500,000 to bring this beloved landmark back to life. This was accomplished by a creative matching of State and Federal funds, private donations, enthusiastic support from County Executive Doug Duncan, and assistance from County revitalization funds earmarked for Silver Spring. Restoration was complete in November 2002, when the Station returned to its opening day appearance of December 1945.
Since 2002, the Silver Spring B&O Station has been open to the public for tours and open houses, rented for meetings and parties, and available for special community events. Once condemned, it has been meticulously restored, with original waiting room, ticket counter, chrome furniture, terrazzo floor, telephone booth, lockers, and bulletin boards. Exhibits on the history of Silver Spring and the station are maintained by the Silver Spring Historical Society and MPI. A canopy and bench near the tracks offer a safe place for all ages to train watch.
MPI has long cooperated with MCDOT to facilitate a route across the Station property. In 2005, MPI learned that the County’s proposal would take the entire rear platform and most of the parking. The effect of this alignment was to separate the Station from the railroad tracks, add more safety and coordination issues, and severely limit MPI’s use of its property. As would any property owner fearful of losing its business, MPI stood up for its right to continue its stewardship in Silver Spring and to welcome the public to this historic site. Some in the private and public sector have criticized MPI for protecting its interests, casting us as obstructionists. It has never been MPI’s goal to prevent the Trail, only to ensure that the Trail would not leave MPI unable to use its property.
After detailed discussions, the County, MPI, and the Maryland Historical Trust jointly agreed upon a conceptual alignment for the MBT around the Station property. There is much design and layout work to be done before construction begins in 2018. And with the Trail will come a need to identify new parking options, to attract additional volunteers at the station, and to carry the burden of increased maintenance costs.