Catalyst or Cataclysm?

Can you build a city in a day? That’s a question that University of Connecticut administrators are struggling to answer as they try to build their own College Town in Storrs, CT. The developer chosen for UMD’s East Campus will face the same dilemma as they try to overcome the Disneyworld-like appearance that plagues almost all new large-scale developments. Okay, so maybe the Storrs project (build out: 2013) and our own East Campus project (build out:2015+?) won’t be done all at once, but developers inevitably will wrestle with both the “place-making” and “vibrancy” question. UMD’s project, mind you, is even more ambitious.

The developer for the UConn project openly acknowledges the difficulty in building a new town all at once:

“We don’t have that 300 years to create a place that has that organic quality,” said Macon Toledano….. But, he said, the careful study that has gone into what the community wants and how the buildings will be used will eventually produce a place with most of the virtues of more seasoned college towns.

Below: In addition to our recent post about some of the characteristics of the New Rockville Town Square, we’d like to point you to some pictures of the Downtown Silver Spring project. Note the repetition of similar materials combined with a poor use of varied fa├žades. Many critics decry the type of pedestrian streets used in the project:


>>Associated Press – A College Builds a Town from Scratch


7 thoughts on “Catalyst or Cataclysm?”

  1. Wow, that’s not flattering at all to Silver Spring. I think Rockville Town Square’s “varied facades” look just as fake, even if they do have windows in them.

  2. Yeah it was a little harsh. I’ll have to check out Rockville in person, but I imagine they ran into the same problem. Neither is or will ever be Dupont Circle.

  3. A lot of people bash Silver Spring based on pictures like this. But turn your camera to the left a little. This section, including Panera and AFI, reuses a 1930’s shopping center, and makes it into something useful for today. Also, there is a beautiful fountain which draw crowds throughout the summer, successfully bringing the community together. That seems like interesting development to me.

  4. Two pictures hardly qualifies as a complete picture of downtown Silver Spring. More pictures would have revealed a fresh and original modern corporate headquarters just across the street (Discovery Channel) that displays a kinetic light show nightly, plus more 30’s & 40’s-era architecture across the street from the AFI, such as the old JC Penney – which might very well become a new Birchmere music venue – as well as the adjacent side streets such as Bonifant and Thayer.

  5. I agree with the point that replies 3 and 4 make. Downtown Silver Spring does have a facte of facade personality that is not discernable from the two pictures posted. More are needed to make a well informed opinion.

    I would like to point out that in my opinion, the development hit a home run in terms of public use and a sense of place with the astro-turf field. It is out of view in the pictures, on the corner across the street from pic 1 and at the end of the street in pic 2.

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