Rockville Pike in White Flint.

I’ve never been shy about professing my planner crush on Rollin Stanley, director of the Montgomery County Planning Department. Last week, I saw him speak before the White Flint Partnership, a group leading the push to redevelop that area, at White Flint Mall.

If you ever get a chance to hear him talk, go. It’s inspiring to hear about everything he’s done in St. Louis and Toronto (PDF) and the visionary ideas he has about our county’s future. And he’s also a great speaker — funny, engaging, and truly excited about the power of people and places.

Rollin’s thesis is simple: We have a growing population, especially immigrants and young professionals, who don’t always want the suburban lifestyle. So if we build up, around Metro and older commercial areas, we can provide for them while generating revenue AND preserving the suburban neighborhoods that current residents like. On top of that, we can create great urban spaces for people of all kinds to enjoy.

A lot of Rollin’s ideas can easily be boiled down into digestible nuggets of planning wisdom, but that doesn’t make them any less useful. And so, I present the Quotable Rollin Stanley:

On parks

“Why are the parks packed in Paris? Everyone lives in smaller space. They don’t have three acres of grass to cut.”

“These kids [today] don’t hang out in big parks. They hang out in small, intimate places where they can mingle, shop and surf the web.”

“We put up signs saying ‘No Rollerblading, No Skateboarding,’ and nobody has any fun.”

On traffic

“The best places to visit have the worst traffic. Who in here has gone on vacation in Houston?”

On tall buildings

“If the buildings are articulated properly, you can’t tell me how tall they are. It isn’t possible.”

On Montgomery County culture

“We’re a little uptight here, as are a lot of places. We gotta let things happen. We’re a little too worried.”

On Silver Spring’s Ellsworth “Avenue”

Blues Festival in Silver Spring.

Rollin both lives and works in downtown Silver Spring and misses no opportunity to sing its praises. I’m not sure if there’s a public official in Montgomery County — perhaps Reemberto Rodriguez from the Regional Services Center — who better understands and appreciates how and why this place works so well.

“You should go there on a Friday night and watch. It’s the most diverse place in the region.”

”[The Turf] was amazing on a Friday night. People of all ethnic groups outside, being out … and parents let their kids run forever because there were no boundaries.”

“The [Civic Building] itself is astounding. Finally, modern architecture in Montgomery County!”

“Your first perception of Downtown Silver Spring is that it’s overdesigned … but it works well. They just turned on the fountain last night and kids were already running around in it.”

“Forget the $2 million for the bridge, gimme $50,000, and I’ll give you the best intersection you can imagine. Won’t be a person with a disability who feels unsafe crossing it.”

“I could go to Whole Check. I could go to Safeway. But more and more of my shopping gets done in Fenton Village.”

On public space

“Urban space should be about getting lost.”

“Urban spaces are places we can all go.”

“Public spaces should be fun.”

“Public spaces should lead people to something.”

“Public spaces should create discussion.”

Tenets of design

(A list of bullet points, presented throughout the talk and later abridged.)

Design for accessibility. Design for safety. Design for three dimensions. Design for textures. Design for flexibility. Design for festivities. (“You know who does this well? Downtown Silver Spring. They do great programming and lots of stuff for children.”)

Design for art and architecture. Design for the kids. (“If we put a mud puddle in the middle of this room, kids will be all over it in five minutes.”) Design for the environment. Design for spontaneity. Design for maintenance.

Design for the current medium. Design for the interaction. Design for all day and into the evening. Design for the senses.

Dan Reed (they/them) is Greater Greater Washington’s regional policy director, focused on housing and land use policy in Maryland and Northern Virginia. For a decade prior, Dan was a transportation planner working with communities all over North America to make their streets safer, enjoyable, and equitable. Their writing has appeared in publications including Washingtonian, CityLab, and Shelterforce, as well as Just Up The Pike, a neighborhood blog founded in 2006. Dan lives in Silver Spring with Drizzy, the goodest boy ever.