Saturday, September 02, 2006
While it has been the southeastern side of the Colesville Road-Georgia Avenue intersection in Silver Spring enjoying all the artistic revitalization in recent years (the Round House Theatre, AFI Silver Theater), it appears that the northwestern side might soon be hearing the sounds of major musicians in the near future, as well as enjoying some of the redevelopment occurring in downtown Silver Spring. On Wednesday, Montgomery County officials announced a partnership that would provide $4 million in state and county money to bring the Birchmere Music Hall to the old art-deco J.C. Penny building at the corner of Colesville Road at Fenton Street. The Birchmere – a long-time stalwart of the Del Ray, Alexandria, scene on Mount Vernon Avenue (old-timers like us will also remember its original location in Old Town), has supported many major singer-songwriter talents, including well-known performers such as Mary Chapin Carpenter, Lyle Lovett, and John Hiatt. According to officials, this plan – if it receives final approval from the Montgomery County Council - would see the Lee Development Group donate 9,000 sf of land to the county, and the Birchmere make an unspecified investment of money as well as lease the renovated building from the county for its second area venue. Birchmere owners said in a statement Wednesday that they expect to open in 2009, assuming negotiations are finalized. This project is seen as a boost to development of the northwestern side of downtown
Silver Spring, which has watched while the major redevelopment enveloped the rest of downtown. Bruce H. Lee, president of the Lee Development Group, told the Washington Post that he is supporting this proposal because he believes it will have a "Broadway effect that will really animate [this] side of [Colesville Road], which desperately needs it."