Dear Readers,

Having a cold winter? Not as cold as the provost’s!

Brad Stewart, provost of the Takoma Park/Silver Spring Montgomery County Community College branch, is so cold this winter he says he feels frozen out – frozen out, that is, of the process.

He uttered this complaint between chattering teeth to the Takoma Park City Council. The council offered Provost Stewart the scratchy woolen scarf of sympathy, but they kept the warm down-filled coats for themselves – better this time around that the council be toasty.

This heat-and-cold exchange concerned the upcoming expansion of the college. In 2005 the council created a citizen’s committee to come up with recommendations for the expansion that the city would be happy with. The Montgomery College Neighbors Advisory Committee presented their report at the February 25th council meeting, and the Provost attended.

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The report, which was highly praised by the council, described the neighborhoods surrrounding the college, the history and architecture of the area, and previous college expansions and changes in great detail. It looked closely at how the aesthetic and functional design of the college fit, or didn’t fit, with the existing community.

In brief, they recommended that the college should expand to the west of the campus, replacing the big, ugly concrete-box storage businesses on Fenton Street, and to the other side of the railroad tracks. They favored the college selling some or all of its properties on “block 69.” Block 69 has college-owned properties on each of its four corners, the rest is residential. The committee fears the college will try to build massive, out-of-scale buildings on these lots, and perhaps buy up more of the block to do so.

Block 69 is bounded by Philadelphia (Rte 410, East-West Highway) and New York Avenues between Chicago and Takoma Avenues.

Following the committee’s report Provost Stewart addressed the council. He tried to be polite about it, but he was clearly unhappy that he had been, as he repeatedly phrased it, “frozen out” of the committee’s process, as he had only recently been informed that the committee existed and would be presenting a report. He also repeatedly said that he agreed for the most part with the committee’s recommendations, BUT . . . and here he talked vaguely about Reality, Limitations, Budgets, and the like. He did get specific about selling block 69 properties for “chump change,” and how the storage buildings would cost many millions more.

He also warned the council that though he would definitely take into account the wishes of the community, his priority, as dictated by the college mission statement – and here he almost choked up – was his students. We are sure, Dear Readers, his students’ deepest concern is that the college keep expansion costs down. They worry about it so much they have trouble sleeping, and it affects their grades.

He could not respond in much detail, he explained, because the college had no plan yet. The architects are coming to review the site this spring, and a charrette with faculty and students is planned a little later. The draft plans will be released in the summer, at which point community feedback is welcome.

Ahem, and that’s exactly our point, thought the council and citizens.

The council and the committee explained that while they regretted that the Provost felt frozen out, it was they who were tired of being out in the cold in precisely the way he had just described the college’s process, which did not include community input until a plan was already drafted. Then, as has been so often the case, the community would be in the position of fighting a plan that was moving forward with little opportunity for anything other than token changes.

The Provost and city parted amiably, however. He said he would show the committee’s report to his architects and would give the community opportunities for input.


About the Author

Gilbert is the pseudonym of a hard-bitten, hard-drinking, long-time Takoma Park resident who maintains the granolapark blog. Gilbert and William L. Brown — Granola Park's mild-mannered chief of staff, researcher, and drink pourer — have never been seen in the same place at the same time.