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Montgomery County Planning Board Rejects Historic Designation for NRMCA Building

On October 10, the Montgomery County Planning Board rejected historic designation for the NRMCA and NSGA Headquarters Building in Silver Spring, MD, by a vote of 5-0, according to Mike Diegel for Source of the Spring. This disappointing decision comes despite Docomomo DC's advocacy for historic designation as well as a Historic Preservation Commission staff recommendation [PDF] for listing the NRMCA/NSGA Headquarters in the Locational Atlas and Index of Historic Sites.

Rebeccah Ballo, historic preservation supervisor in the Planning Department, is quoted in Diegel's article: “The Planning Board didn’t feel that the property met the designation criteria that the Historic Preservation staff and that the [Historic Preservation Commission] had laid out for them. ... Mainly that the building was an excellent example of Brutalist architecture in Montgomery County, and that the building was a well established, familiar landmark in Silver Spring.”

Without historic designation, Ballo further clarified, demolition will proceed; the Planning Board's decision is not subject to appeal.

Below is an excerpt from the NRMCA's Historic Listing form:

The NRMCA Headquarters Building was designed by architect John H. Sullivan, Jr with concrete panels fabricated in the Earley Studio. A Washington area craftsman and designer, John Joseph Earley perfected the technique of concrete aggregate panels in the 1930s. This type of concrete construction technique, using densely packed aggregate with a minimal amount of cement, was called the Mo-Sai process.

The Headquarters Building was hailed by the architecture community as an exciting showplace with “dramatic beauty.” The project received a first-place design award from the American Institute of Architects Potomac Valley chapter. The national concrete organization chose a show-stopping design of concrete finishing for the headquarters building. Located at 900 Spring Street in downtown Silver Spring, the building has retained its original use, as home of National Ready Mixed Concrete Association.

This decision is noted the Planning Board meeting minutes as "Denied staff recommendation of approval to add the property cited above to the Locational Atlas and Index of Historic Sites." The decision is troubling both for its lack of transparency in how it was reached considering the staff recommendation and for its irreversibility: Not only can the ruling not be appealed, but additionally a building, once demolished, is gone forever.




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