Montgomery County, MD's Welcoming Sense of Community

A welcoming environment makes the region one of the nation's most diverse places.

By
Jessica Walker Boehm
On Tuesday, December 17, 2019 - 11:39
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Montgomery County offers equal measures of a cosmopolitan vibe and small community comfort, with a growing roster of quality-of-life amenities and entertainment opportunities.

That diversity in lifestyle options, access to entertainment attractions and mobility, including an expanding transit system, will appeal to the 25,000 workers Amazon will hire as it ramps up its headquarters operations just over the border in Northern Virginia. Montgomery County offers a number of communities with transit connections that put it in easy reach of Amazon’s operations and cultural and entertainment amenities that appeal to young talent.

Opportunity Zones for Growth

Montgomery County offers 14 designated “opportunity zones” that give investors the ability to work together, sharing resources and encouraging new development in an effort to revitalize and re-energize underserved communities. 

Two of those opportunity zones are in White Oak – home to the Food and Drug Administration, Adventist HealthCare White Oak Medical Center and the up-and-coming Viva White Oak commercial and residential development – while others are in Silver Spring, Wheaton, Germantown, Montgomery Village, Gaithersburg, Long Branch, Takoma Park and Rockville.

Favorite attractions, like the AFI Silver Theatre and Cultural Center and The Fillmore Silver Spring, have long contributed to downtown Silver Spring’s appeal, but more development is underway, and when completed, they’re going to make the neighborhood even more exciting.

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In May 2019, Peterson Cos. and Foulger-Pratt – the two companies that built the 440,000-square-foot Downtown Silver Spring development 20 years ago – announced the district is getting a $10 million refresh that will include new tenants and a new look for existing tenants.

Fresh additions like wine bar Locavino and Matchbox Vintage Pizza Bistro are already open, while other newcomers, such as the Eleanor, a 7,700-square-foot bar, restaurant and entertainment venue, are still under construction.

Furthermore, 1,000 residential units will soon join the more than 2,500 units already in downtown Silver Spring, along with a new plaza area and a dynamic greenspace.

Downtown Silver Spring’s public art collection is also growing. One of its newest pieces, Traincarmachameleon, was created by Goodloe Byron after he won a local art contest. The mural, made possible through a collaboration between the Silver Spring Urban District, Silver Spring Arts & Entertainment District and Washington Property Company, is installed along Bonifant Street at Georgia Avenue.

Byron says his mural was inspired by the Purple Line, which is next to his creation and slated to begin when the light rail opens in 2022 or 2023.

“Silver Spring is a wonderful menagerie of cultures, and the spaces where cultures meet are where art and creativity thrive,” Byron says. “I really had a great time working on Traincarmachameleon and meeting everyone in the neighborhood as I was doing so.”

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'Ethnically and Culturally Diverse'

Conveniently located on the Washington Metro system’s Red Line, Wheaton is also flourishing, adding to its array of award-winning restaurants, specialty retailers and must-visit attractions, such as Brookside Gardens in Wheaton Regional Park and the iconic Chuck Levin’s Washington Music Center.

The community’s downtown lays claim to the Wheaton Arts & Entertainment District, which received the Maryland State Arts Council’s 2017 Award for Outstanding Achievement. The district is offering incentives to help artists relocate to the area and make it even more vibrant. For example, qualifying artists who both live and work in the district can receive local property tax credits, state income tax deductions and exemptions from the admissions and amusement tax.

Along with new artists, downtown Wheaton is also welcoming a new 14-story building that will house the Montgomery County Planning Board, Montgomery Parks and Montgomery Planning Department, among other entities. The LEED Platinum-rated, mixed-use building will serve as a town square and include a landscaped plaza, ideally becoming the new heart of the community.

“Wheaton is an ethnically and culturally diverse community, and although it is experiencing some revitalization and redevelopment, it still maintains its small-town feel and has plenty of ‘mom-and-pop’ businesses that are continuing to thrive,” says Sidney Cooper, marketing and events manager for the Wheaton Urban District. “The fact that it’s close to Washington, D.C., accessible by three major thoroughfares and home to a metro stop on the Red Line makes Wheaton a very affordable and attractive place to call home.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jessica Walker Boehm is a journalism graduate of Belmont University and has been a regular contributor to Livability.com since 2010.