Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Silver Spring Town Center, Inc. Supports Silver Spring's Re-designation as an Arts & Entertainment District

The Silver Spring Town Center, Inc. supports Silver Spring's re-designation as an Arts & Entertainment District. Interested parties were invited to provide comments on the re-designation of the Silver Spring Arts and Entertainment District at a public hearing scheduled for Tuesday, July 5 at 7 p.m. at the Silver Spring Civic Building, One Veterans Plaza in Silver Spring.

Silver Spring was designated an Arts and Entertainment District in 2002 for a 10-year period and the designation will expire in 2012. As the designation proved to be highly successful, the County intends to apply for re-designation. In 2001, the State of Maryland enacted legislation that authorizes the Secretary of the Department of Business and Economic Development (DBED) to designate arts and entertainment districts in which tax and other financial benefits will be available for arts and entertainment enterprises and qualifying resident artists. Each year, DBED may create six districts, with no jurisdiction having more than one district designated in a single year. In Montgomery County, the central business districts of Bethesda, Silver Spring and Wheaton have each been designated an Arts and Entertainment District.

Comments will be heard by representatives from Montgomery County who will submit a recommendation to the County Executive and County Council. The Executive and Council will then submit a request to the State to apply for a re-designation.

Testimony of
Alan S. Bowser, President
Silver Spring Town Center, Inc.
Support Re-designation of the Silver Spring Arts & Entertainment District
July 5, 2011

My name is Alan Bowser, a Silver Spring resident and local business owner, and currently, President of the Silver Spring Town Center, Inc. I am also a member of the County Executive’s Silver Spring Arts & Entertainment District Advisory Committee.

The Silver Spring Town Center Inc. (SSTCi), a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) organization, is the result of a long process of community involvement and engagement to support the development of downtown Silver Spring. It was created to infuse community spirit and involvement in the new Silver Spring Civic Building and Veterans Plaza.

We are governed by an all-volunteer Board of Directors, representing all facets of the civic and business community in Silver Spring. Our current officers were elected in February 2010. The officers are myself; Dr. Sheryl Brissett-Chapman, Vice President; Mary Ann Zimmerman, Secretary; and David Fogel, Treasurer. Our website is www.silverspringtowncenter.com, our blog is www.silverspringtowncenter.blogspot.com; you can follow us on Twitter, YouTube, Flickr, and on Facebook!

The Silver Spring Town Center, Inc. very strongly supports the re-designation of the Silver Spring Arts & Entertainment District for the following very important reasons.

First, our work in Silver Spring is not yet done. The economic redevelopment and community revitalization process that is evident in Silver Spring has made great strides in recent years, but clearly much more work needs to be done.

We need to expand the area of economic progress and advance beyond the CBD center to other parts of Silver Spring, and re-designation of this area as an Arts & Entertainment District will help to achieve this important goal.

While we currently have many valuable cultural amenities such as the American Film Institute, Round House Theatre, Pyramid Atlantic, the new Montgomery College Performing Arts Center, The Bonifant Theatre Space, the Urban Nation Academy for the Performing Arts, and the soon to open Fillmore facility on Colesville Road, we believe that we need more art, more entertainment, more artists, more entertainers, and more creative venues to support our lively arts environment.

Second, re-designation will help us support our local artists and those individuals and business which help them survive and thrive.

Hundreds, perhaps thousands, of creative personalities are proud to call Silver Spring their home. We are blessed with an abundance of creative energy in the form of many singers, songwriters, musicians, actors, actresses, playwrights, graphic artists, printmakers, painters, sculptors, photographers, among others. Re-designation helps support our artistic community by providing valuable tax breaks and incentives for artists and supporting businesses to locate and remain in Silver Spring. Re-designation helps us by supporting a “critical mass” of creative energy that will nurture existing artists and new artists in exciting new ways.

Third, re-designation will help us to build and strengthen our community, by educating our neighbors and visitors, and fostering ties between people and communities.

As you know, Silver Spring is one of the most diverse communities in the metropolitan Washington area, indeed in the United States. People speaking scores of different languages attend our schools, shop in our businesses, worship in our churches, mosques and synagogues, ride our buses and enjoy our rich arts & entertainment offerings. In this cultural mosaic, we have seen hundreds of people come together to celebrate the arts from every corner of the globe.

Recently, the Silver Spring Town Center, Inc., in cooperation with Montgomery County, has begun the production of a number of community-centered arts & entertainment productions on Silver Spring’s Veterans Plaza. Since we began our 2011 performance season in April, we have hosted nearly twenty free performances for the benefit of the entire Montgomery County community, and have scheduled nearly forty more. We have brought to the Plaza Stage jazz, blues, bluegrass, country & western music, rock, folk and choral music, and look forward to spoken work, dramatic productions, and dance performances. And as we have brought this tapestry of performance to the Plaza, we have seen very enthusiastic audiences—large and small—or every color and hue—unite to celebrate these performances that reflect our community’s diversity. We have seen the music bring our neighbors together, and make our community safer.

Fourth, re-designation will help us to strengthen the local economy in Silver Spring and in greater Montgomery County.

We know that fostering and promoting “arts & entertainment” can bring millions of dollars into our community and into our community. One has only to look at the success of the Silver Spring Jazz Festival, AFI’s & Discovery’s SilverDocs, and our own Silver Spring Blues Festival to see that quality art & entertainment attracts tens of thousands of customers to local businesses. Our Silver Spring Blues Festival, with the support of local merchants, has promoted local restaurants and clubs, and has economically benefitted a host of businesses, in Silver Spring and throughout Montgomery County. Re-designation will help us to build on this progress and provide an even much greater stimulus to the County’s economy, and particularly, local small businesses.

Fifth, re-desigation will help us enhance our community’s statute as an important arts & entertainment destination.

Many of us in the community have worked tirelessly to enhance Silver Spring’s reputation as a go-to place for fun, recreation, relaxation and education. We feel proud of our collective accomplishments in this area and look forward to even greater achievements. Already, Silver Spring is seen as an important regional arts & entertainment destination, and this perspective will only increase as we continue our efforts to embrace the local creative community and the thousands of our neighbors who support it.

In conclusion, the Silver Spring Town Center, Inc. is pleased to support the efforts to secure re-designation of our community as an Arts & Entertainment District. Our organizational motto is “Celebrating Diversity, Creating Community.” An Arts & Entertainment District supports this objective. We still have important work to do, and this mechanism can help us achieve our goals.

Thank you for the opportunity to present this testimony this evening.

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