How not to revitalize downtown

Don’t do it the way Silver Spring, Md. did it. They paid $100 million to a private developer to renovate their downtown area. The development company turned around and then claimed that part of Silver Spring’s downtown is now a private mall, and pedestrians are answerable to their security guards.

Chip Py, a longtime resident of Silver Spring, recently returned to an old interest in photography. While wandering through downtown after eating lunch there last week, he took out his camera and started to take shots of the contrast between the tops of the office buildings and the sparkling blue sky. Within seconds, a private security guard was at Py’s side, informing him that picture-taking is not permitted, no explanation given.

“I am on a city street, in a public place,” Py replied. “Taking pictures is a right that I have, protected by the First Amendment.”

The guard sent Py to the management office of the Peterson Cos., the developer that built the new downtown. There, marketing official Stacy Horan told Py that although Ellsworth Drive — where many of the downtown’s shops and eateries are located — may look like a public street, it is treated as private property, controlled by Peterson.

County officials in Silver Spring simply shrug.

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