Historic preservation can mean a lot of things. To some, it’s about keeping a vibrant, architecturally interesting neighborhood and ensuring pieces of a coherent whole aren’t ripped out indiscriminately. To others, it’s about maintaining a few significant pieces of notable architecture, like an art museum for buildings. And to some, it’s about stopping any development that would make a town bigger and busier.
In Silver Spring, a preservation fight over the fairly bland Falkland Chase apartment complex appears to be mostly number three (neighborhood taxidermy) couched as number two (Eleanor Roosevelt cut the ribbon on the complex, and it was one of the first post-war apartment complexes with affordable housing).
But as Marc Fisher points out in today’s column, the irony of landmarking this complex is that its historical significance as middle-class housing will be the very thing stopping it from becoming new middle-class housing for the modern era. And if we landmark everything near every downtown in the region, we won’t be able to provide affordable and sustainable housing to anyone as gas prices climb. A little house out in a new suburb for everyone just isn’t a realistic form anymore.
Silver Spring, Singular said the same things back in December. Speaking of Silver Spring, Singular, that site’s header image depicts the Art Deco strip mall at Colesville and Georgia that’s also historically preserved. I continue to be very skeptical of landmarking a parking lot, whether it was the first strip mall parking lot or not. I’d certainly preserve the Art Deco facade itself, but there’s no reason the parking lot couldn’t become a public square with perhaps a few floors of apartments behind and on top.