Please introduce yourself
My name is David Fogel.
How did you end up in Silver Spring?
I grew up in Bethesda. I went away to college in Vermont and then moved to Japan. When I moved back from Japan a little over three years there, I started working for a cultural development corporation part time and then I saw a job posting for an opportunity to be the Montgomery County project manager of a community development corporation called Gateway that was inter-jurisdictional and works in the District as well as here in Silver Spring and predominantly South Silver Spring. One of the main parts of that job was working with the newly formed Arts and Entertainment District. I came from a background at that point where my interests really lay in community development through creative culture. That’s how I ended up working here initially. Then I ended up being an original founding member of Eastern Village co-housing, also here in South Silver Spring where I still live. That’s how I came here.
Can you tell me about Space 88?
Space 88 is a co-working environment. it’s a concept that I became familiar with after moving into the co-housing community, and I visited a friend who had his office in a co-working place in the district. I thought it was a great idea, and visited a couple different co-work communities. At the same time as this was happening I was working in downtown Silver Spring to support the creative community and the non-profit community. A lot of folks were trying to find office space here in downtown, and just couldn’t afford what the landlords wanted.
People couldn’t wrap their heads around the financial obligations. These are start-ups, freelancers, and smaller non-profits. So I proposed the idea to the Gateway board to actually take over the adjacent space that we’re in right now and have it be a co-working space/studio space, and for whatever reason it didn’t happen. I ended up leaving the organization about 8 months later and starting working for myself. I was working out of my home and everything was good, but I wanted to be around other people. I found a space, we moved in there and had four other tenants, including myself. That’s how it came about. Seven years later, we’re in this spot and we’ve been here for a year now. We’re looking to be expanding into a third spot.
You’re looking to expand this space or move into a new space?
We’ll expand this space. I’m currently debating that internally. I’d love feedback on the blog from some of your readers as to what idea they think I should do, but we’re pretty much at capacity right now. We have one work station, maybe two, that are still available. One of the ideas that’s crossed my mind is that instead of having more office/desk space, we create a space that would be more geared toward dance or yoga. Similar concept, but not have one entity to use it.
We would allow multiple entities, freelance yoga instructors, dance instructors and what not, to do classes there. Certainly in South Silver Spring, I know that those facilities don’t exist. I know there’s a bit of a market for it just in the community that I live in. I would assume it’s similar in the other buildings.
You run your own company out of Space 88?
Space 88 is not my main business. It was never intended to be my main business. I run a creative agency, XCulture. We do all sorts of digital marketing and branding and things like that. I wanted Space 88 to just be able to cover its cost. I have selfish reasons to have an office space and be around like-minded folks.
Since you’ve been in Silver Spring, what changes have you noticed and what are the most poignant to you?
When I started working in south Silver Spring, the only residential building at that time was The Blairs. This building that we’re in was the first one to be rehabilitated, after being vacant for 16 some odd years, followed by Eastern Village, where I live. Next was The Aurora and The Silverton, and 8045 came online and now we’ve got The Galaxy, and I forget the name of the one on Georgia. We’ve got that one and The Bennington, 1200 East-West Hwy. Oh, the Micah existed, as well, but it got converted into condos. Culturally and socially, the infusion of that many units has been a really cool thing to watch happen. At the same time, South Silver Spring-wise, Montgomery College’s expansion with the Cultural Center and the Fine Arts Center has been great as part of the architectural and cultural landscape. If you talk to anyone who was here 15 years ago compared to where it is now, the transition that this community has gone through is probably one of the most significant in the region and long overdo. It’s happened on so many different levels: physical structure, social, cultural. One of the other things that is also poignant about Silver Spring, despite all of the change, is we still managed to remain economically diverse. It’s an issue that the community has always been aware of and determined to maintain. Its always a threat, but when I walk through Silver Spring, I really do feel like we are still a very economically diverse city. I think that’s something that we should be proud of because I think a lot of places tend to push people out. It’s not to say that hasn’t happened at all, but Silver Spring has done a pretty good job of trying to maintain that, and I think it’s important the health of a city to be surrounded by diversity in every sense of the word. Not just racial/cultural, but economic diversity is huge.
What do you love about Silver Spring?
That’s one of the tings that I really do love is the economic diversity. I love where I live. When I go home, I go home to a community. I love the anonymity that the city provides. I love the chance for spontaneous organic activity to happen. I think Silver Spring, as a business owner, is still relatively affordable for me and my concepts. I’m in the process of opening another business right now, a coffee shop/record store on East-West Hwy that should open up in June, and I’m really excited about that. I can do it here. I have a great location in a place that needs a place like this where it’s not something that I could do in DC to the extent that we’re doing it, or in Bethesda, or down county. I appreciate that the prices are where they are. I like the array of restaurants. I have a young son and another on the way. It’s a great place to have a kid. It’s a very progressive place, an open-minded community of forward thinkers who are willing to have earnest dialogue about progressive ideas. Our leadership is keen to that, if not leading those conversations. We’ve got a lot going for ourselves and we’re far from done. There’s still a lot of physical and social development that will happen and active engagement of citizens is really healthy here.
What do you dislike about Silver Spring?
Architecturally, from a physical, aesthetic standpoint, I wish there were more inspiring works and bodies of architecture. From an urbanist perspective, we always have to focus on what makes us unique. I want to be inspired when I walk down the street. In order to attract businesses, entrepreneurs, and creative people, these things that will propel our economy in the 21st century and beyond, we need to be focused on place making and what that means. Those of us who are building physically within our community, we have to hold them to a higher standard now. It’s important to allow people to get from A to B easily, but it’s even better if those people going from A to B are inspired or energized. We need to have more, broader conversations about what that means and what that looks like and what we want. Whether it’s through the Optional Method of Development or new more exciting art projects or spaces, that’s up for community debate and conversation. Physically, I think we’re a little bit lacking. Along those lines, from an infrastructure standpoint, Silver Spring has a nice foundation of cultural institutions. The AFI is wonderful. It’s a destination point for people within the region. I’m glad that The Fillmore is here. Their programming isn’t for me just yet, but that’s okay. It doesn’t have to be for me. I wish it were a little more active. I’m glad that we have the Blackbox Theater, next to the AFI. I’m not sure if it’s still Roundhouse’s or not. I love those kinds of cultural institutions, even the movie theater and what’s happening at the Silver Spring town center. I love what’s happening from a cultural standpoint, Peterson’s programming of bands and things in the Spring and Summer. I’d like to see more of those types of places. The fact that the Quarry House and McGinty’s have live music is important and good, and I think we need more places like that that speak to the arts. Pyramid Atlantic is another one that’s crucial and wonderful. We need more places that speak to the arts. The cultivation of art forms as well as the ability to express these art forms are important. We need places to just hang out. One of the objectives of our coffee shop, called Bump N Grind, at 1200 East-West Hwy is to create that essential third space, which at one point was Mayorga. I hope Bump N Grind will be that. It will be 2000 sq ft. It should be a nice space for people to catch up, relax, have meetings, bond, meet folks and hopefully buy vinyl records. We’ll be doing radio shows in the evenings. We hope to be a bit of a community hub. Because what we’re doing will be the first store in the DC Metro area that strictly sells new vinyl releases, we will be on the cultural map for this area because people from all over the region will come to us to buy what we have because no one else is doing it. We’re really proud of that. It will be another significant feather in Silver Spring’s cap.
One other thing that I would say is, how do you create spaces for an exciting retail? Not big box retail. How do you compete? It’s an important part of the streetscape and every downtown is trying to figure that out, landlords even. It’s difficult to get financing for a project where a chunk of it is going to a potential Mom and Pop, as opposed to an anchor tenant. The banks want to see anchor tenants; they don’t want to see Mom and Pop’s. I get that struggle, but those independent stores from a retail perspective, we lack. Those are things that make a place special. Those kinds of spaces are the reason that people decide to stay in a place as opposed to take another job somewhere else because there’s no sense of anything unique or special here. Why not take that other job somewhere else or move somewhere else? If you’re just going to get the same fare, why stay? The reason that people stay in San Francisco and Austin, and I don’t mind lumping Silver Spring in with those, they stay because of that unique sense of place. It’s something that we need to do a better job of defining and creating here.
The final thing that I think we need here in South Silver Spring is more green space. One of the things on my personal agenda is to see Acorn Park improved, which is historic and awesome. I love the history that is associated with that park, but I’d like to see it re-purposed a bit to have it be more of a gathering place. It’s the only opportunity that we’ve got. I’ve tried working with Parks and Planning to sit down and have a good conversation about how it can be re-purposed so that it can used. There’s an extreme lack of green space. They point to The Blair redevelopment as opportunities within that, but that’s 5 years down the road. There’s things we can do immediately that can really serve this community much better, either as a dog park or just a place that people can hang out that’s safer and better. We can create a model there that would be interesting on a national model, a hybrid model that focuses on the history of the place as well as increased functionality. It would be another feather in Silver Spring’s cap that could put us on a national level as well as highlight what’s unique about this place. That’s The Silver Spring, for God’s sake. Nobody knows it. That’s the original acorn from the whole Blair estate. The way things are right now it’s just a pass-through. Those are the types of place-making opportunities that we have, especially the county. That’s owned and controlled by the county. It’s not owned by anyone privately. One of the things that the county has talked about, “Maybe we can convince so-and-so to do something or we can try to wrestle this piece of land from so-and-so” and I’m not saying those aren’t great ideas, but that takes bringing in another party and convincing them. That is yours. Let’s make that better. We can do it, but there hasn’t been a strong sense of leadership to make that happen yet, but I’d love to see something like that happen.
When you go out in Silver Spring, where can people find you?
Joe’s Record Paradise, that’s one of my favorite places to go. I go to the town center, because I’m on the board there. I will be hanging out a lot at Bump N Grind when it opens in June. My favorite lunch spot is Lotus Café, where I had my first date with my wife. Especially in winter, it’s great. I’m here during the day, in Space 88, working.
What’s one thing that’s overlooked in Silver Spring that doesn’t get enough attention?
On top of those places where I hang out, I would say the acorn and the spring.
Oh, and I also want to give a bit of a shout out to, I haven’t met them yet, but I’m really excited about Denizen’s Brewery. I think that’s going to be a great addition to the neighborhood.
Anything else you want to touch on?
I encourage people to get involved civically and support local businesses. It’s hard, but try to be as intentional of a community member as you can. Silver Spring is still a bit of a blank palette and it’s going to change and evolve and it’s up to us to support the places that we really want to see stay here, and advocate for those places, as well. A lot of that means working with our government and those entities and working with entities like Parks and Planning on their zoning rewrites and paying attention to what The Blairs is about to do. It’s a huge redevelopment. Just getting engaged, Talking to people about those types of things, starting blogs.
Great interview, Pete! Great job. Bump and Grind sounds awesome. Do we know what type of music it will mainly feature? Would it be electronic music by chance? Any downtempo? Or hip hop? Will there be live DJs from time to time?
I’m thinking of the old Yoshitoshi store in Georgetown with a coffee shop add on (my old stomping ground). Is my vision way off?