New restaurants, technology companies and arts organizations are bringing downtown Silver Spring to life, say business and government leaders, who are celebrating that rebirth with a new community logo.
A cross between a sprouting tree and a surging geyser, the design is meant to symbolize the upsurge in commercial and cultural growth that is being promoted in Silver Spring's long moribund downtown.
"I like the logo. It gives a unifying graphic theme to the downtown and is going to help foster a sense of identity there," said Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan (D).
On Monday, Duncan and business leaders gathered in the office of the Silver Spring Urban District on Georgia Avenue to unveil the logo and announce the addition or expansion of 151 companies to the area over the last year and a half.
Duncan, joined by Roger Bain, chairman of the Greater Silver Spring Chamber of Commerce and Urban District Chairman Carol Rubin, released a list of 88 new Silver Spring companies and 63 existing companies that had expanded.
"There's been a lot of talk about redeveloping Silver Spring, but now we're really seeing the fruition--seeing buildings rise out of the ground," Bain said.
Construction is underway on a Fresh Fields supermarket, and the American Film Institute is renovating the historic Silver Theater, Bain noted. The projects are part of the 300-acre redevelopment district, where county government and local leaders have been concentrating the revitalization efforts. Along with the Film Institute, Bain cited the town center project, the expansion by Discovery Communications, which is leasing the old Caldor building, and expansion of Montgomery College.
"I've seen Silver Spring since the early 1960s, when it was a pretty vibrant place, and then watched it go downhill," said Bain, a lawyer who said he has worked in and around Silver Spring for decades. "We have much to do, but now there are real signs that we have turned the corner in a major way."
Duncan noted that the last time he had made such an announcement, at the end of 1997, the announcement had been that 30 companies had moved in or expanded. "We've got some real momentum built up," he said. "People are beginning to think of this as an arts and business center."
The logos already has appeared on banners hung on downtown streets, and it will also appear on downtown signage and on the uniforms and equipment used by the Silver Spring Urban Crew and Corps. The corps is one of the byproducts of the new taxing district created in the area. In return for the being taxed, downtown businesses benefit from the corps, which will provide cleanup, security and goodwill ambassador service.
Business owners say they are excited to be part of the process.
"It's not often in life you have a chance to make a difference, but this is ours," said Robert Sugar, owner of Auras Design, which employs 13 people in a renovated historic building in downtown Silver Spring.
Sugar said he was glad to find the large, affordable space, the 15-foot ceilings and the assistance from government programs to renovate the former Masons' hall.
"For years, this building was decaying and the windows were boarded and you would look at it and say, 'This is downtown Silver Spring in a nutshell,' " Sugar said. "We hope our presence here and that of others gets the message out that Silver Spring is really on the upswing."