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Urban Design

Urban design concentrates on the public realm by promoting unique, context-sensitive neighborhoods, towns and corridor cities. Urban design considers the arrangement and design of streets, public spaces and buildings to create distinct character and a great sense of place.

Urban Design Guidelines

Within the Planning Department, urban designers establishes guidelines for each planning area. Blending architecture, landscape architecture, and environmental stewardship, good urban design results in areas that are both functional and attractive. Urban designers work on these elements to create urban design guidelines:

  • Street Character
    Improving the character of the street system, promoting walking, providing easy access to transit, creating inviting connections to services
  • Open Spaces
    Establishing open space systems designed to serve people of all ages and needs, providing a variety of urban spaces, such as a plazas, urban parks and town commons connected by a system of greenways and sidewalks
  • Building Form and Character
    Fostering the design of buildings that shape public streets and open spaces and considering density, building heights, setbacks from the curb, and parking locations
  • Landmarks and Gateways
    Preserving and highlighting the elements that make a community unique, and increasing access to historic resources

Learn more about urban design concepts in this presentation by Arun Jain, a Portland, Oregon designer who created the Urban Design Framework for Central Portland and has more than 25 years of international experience in practice and academia. He presented to the Planning Board in October 2011.

View urban design guidelines for these community planning areas:

Silver Spring Green Space Guidelines

Planners are crafting a new strategy to add more green space and public gathering places to downtown Silver Spring. The guidelines will identify potential sites that could provide large green public spaces and specify design guidelines for how to develop them.

Streetscape Plans

Trees, pavers and street furniture help create attractive streetscapes in the Central Business Districts. View or download the following drafts and approved plans:

The Straight Line

Visit The Straight Line, a design blog that delivers our take on the buildings, streets and spaces that make up where we live, work and play. Staff’s commentary starts the conversation, but we want to hear from you. Check back often and set us straight.

Development Review

For private development, the urban designers review projects for conformance with the established master plans to foster design excellence. Urban designers analyze function, design, circulation and other aspects of projects and provide recommendations to the Planning Board, and to the applicable federal, state and local agencies.

Mandatory Referrals

Government agencies planning construction projects – such as libraries, schools, transit centers and federal facilities – must refer their plans to the Montgomery County Planning Board for Mandatory Referral review. The reviews are either administrative for small projects that do not create significant impact in surrounding areas or a full Planning Board review when a construction project is large in scale and may create significant impacts. 

Learn more about the Webb Tract mandatory referral project.

Master Planning

Urban designers work closely with the planning teams to create master plans for specific areas. They provide recommendations for the design of streets, open space and buildings and produce a range of maps, diagrams and perspectives to assist the planning teams, the Planning Board and the County Council. Often, urban designers help bring alive the design recommendations in master plans. 

Date of last update: November 3, 2011