Trend Alert: Church-Oriented Development

A mixed-use development being proposed for the First Baptist Church's property in downtown Silver Spring is just the latest in a series of similar projects across the D.C. suburbs that are pitting congregations against preservationists.
February 26, 2013, 1pm PST | Jonathan Nettler | @nettsj
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When the First Baptist Church of Silver Spring and their developer partners Grosvenor Americas and LaKritz Adler go before the Montgomery County Planning Board this week to discuss their proposal to "replace their aging sanctuary with apartments, shops and a new church," they'll be joining a number of brethren in the area pursuing similar such projects, says Dan Reed. "Whether due to declining attendance or growing ambitions, other area churches are doing the same thing, notably the Third Church of Christ, Scientist in downtown DC, which partnered with a developer to raze their architecturally significant sanctuary and replace it with a new church and office building."

"In Arlington, the Church at Clarendon sold the air rights above their church so an apartment building could be built on top," he adds. "Meanwhile, the First Baptist Church of Wheaton sold their property to an apartment developer to relocate to Olney."

"These projects often pit congregations against preservationists, who argue that the churches are historically or architecturally significant and should be saved," explains Reed. "The Silver Spring Historical Society fought to have the First Baptist Church designated as a historic landmark; in response, the church hired a historian to argue that the building was nothing special."

"Whether or not the First Baptist Church of Silver Spring is historically significant, it plays an important role in the community. Ironically, tearing it down will allow the church to remain in the community by giving it much-needed income and a new sanctuary that better fits their needs. Not only that, but the proposed design will encourage the further revitalization of downtown Silver Spring while creating a nice transition to surrounding neighborhoods."

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Published on Tuesday, February 26, 2013 in Greater Greater Washington
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