Over the past 25 years, Montgomery County leaders and residents of Silver Spring have tried to reverse the decline of the area's aging downtown. Disagreement over what to do has chewed up countless proposals, from a modest strip mall to a grandiose plan for a massive regional mall. In the late 1990s, County Executive Douglas M. Duncan set downtown Silver Spring on its present course. This week, Discovery Communications and the American Film Institute open new facilities. In the coming year, new shops and restaurants will move in, creating a new main street.
At the invitation of Montgomery Extra, activists and business and political leaders who have been intimately involved in various stages of the process shared their views on the journey in an informal roundtable discussion. The participants were:
Gus Bauman, 53, a Washington lawyer who has served as chairman of the National Capital Park and Planning Commission and was deeply involved in the battle over the future of Silver Spring that was waged in the late 1980s and early 1990s. He ran for county executive in 1994 and lost to Duncan in the Democratic primary. He lives in Silver Spring.
Frankie Blackburn, 44, executive director of Impact Silver Spring, a group created to help the area's diverse groups work together more effectively. Blackburn, who lives in Silver Spring, has been actively involved in discussions about redevelopment since the 1980s.
Bryant Foulger, 47, a principal in the Foulger-Pratt Development Co., which is a partner in the redevelopment of the 21-acre site at Georgia Avenue and Colesville Road. Foulger helped devise the plan that prevailed in competition with dozens of proposals for the redevelopment.
Sidney Kramer, 76, a wealthy businessman and former county executive who in the 1980s backed unsuccessful efforts to build a $250 million office and retail complex. He represented Silver Spring on the Montgomery County Council and in the Maryland Senate until being elected county executive in 1986. He lives in Rockville.
The Rev. Donell Peterman, 35, pastor of the Joshua Group Ministries in Takoma Park and a housing activist who promotes the need for more affordable housing in downtown Silver Spring. He served a six-month term on the County Council last year when Derick Berlage left for the planning board. He lives in Silver Spring.
Steven A. Silverman, 48, a Democratic at-large member of the Montgomery County Council and a supporter of affordable housing and the Silver Spring redevelopment. Silverman, who is serving his second term, lives in White Oak.
Gustavo Torres, 41, executive director of Casa of Maryland, a social services agency serving Latino residents and one of the most influential organizations of its kind in the state. Torres was part of a coalition of residents that offered recommendations for the Silver Spring redevelopment project.
Washington Post participants were: Jo-Ann Armao, assistant managing editor for metropolitan news; Mae Israel, Montgomery Extra editor; and county government and political reporters Michael H. Cottman and Matthew Mosk.
Here are excerpts of the discussion.