Silver Spring Area Offers Diversity to Residents, Visitors

Claudia Joa, an 18-year-old freshman at Montgomery College has been living in Silver Spring for eight years. She moved to Silver Spring from Florida because her father, a developer in the D.C. area, wanted his children to live in a city that was close to D.C., but also had a good school system.

“It’s pretty cool living here, and it’s very diverse,” said Joa. She enjoys the freedom of living in a suburb but also having the convenience of visiting a well-known city that is just minutes away. “It’s a good place to grow up but after high school you need to expand,” she said.

A short ride up Seventh Street/Georgia Avenue leads you from downtown D.C. to Silver Spring, Md., arguably the second most popular city in Maryland, after Baltimore. According to the Silver Spring Center website, its name originates from a sparkling spring flowing with chips of mica which was found by Francis Preston Blair, an organizer of the Modern American Republican Party, in 1842 while horseback riding. These days you can find the now dry spring at Acorn Park. But, around that spring lies a suburb outside our nation’s capital.

In early 2000, Downtown Silver Spring experienced major changes, namely the addition of national retail chains. This included a new look in the surrounding areas of the City Place Mall located on Ellsworth Drive. In 2003, the Discovery Communications Headquarters finished construction and in recent years, the Intercounty Connector or MD route 200, a highway that will be a part of the Washington Outer Beltway, has been a topic of debate.

The people who live here consider downtown Silver Spring the main attraction of the city. Restaurants covering a range of international cuisine, such as Ethiopian, Moroccan, Chinese, Thai, Japanese and Irish, are located in the shopping and eating area located at Ellsworth Drive and Georgia Avenue.

Roberto Pietrobono, 36, restaurant owner has been living in Silver Spring for 33 years. In 2007, he also became an area business owner when he and his brother Ricardo opened Olazzo , an Italian-American restaurant. Pietrobono already had another restaurant in Bethesda, Md., but said the decided to set up shop in Silver Spring because, “they plan on doing a lot of growth, I look for tall buildings and location is key.” His restaurant was names Best Red-Sauce Italism Restaurant in the Washington City Paper’s 2008: Best of D.C.

The people of Silver Spring are just as diverse as the array of restaurants. The population includes about 250,000 people according to the 2000 United States Census Bureau. The Silver Spring center Web site states, the make up of the region is 28.1 percent African American, 0.4 percent American Indian Eskimo, 8.2 percent Asian, 22.2 percent Hispanic, 46.6 percent white and 11.6 percent other.

The diversity is a draw for some potential residents. Andarge Asfaw, 49, a photographer who is a native of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia and moved to the states during his teenage years. He attended college in New York but after graduation felt the need to settle down in Silver Spring. He has lived there for 22 years.

“I liked it because it was so diverse,” said Asfaw, who now lives in the city with his wife and 18-year-old son.

Silver Spring also provides a number of housing and job opportunities to students at local colleges and universities.

Valini Gosine, is a 21-year-old Howard University senior, lived in Silver Spring for a year, but moved to D.C. when her rent increased. She says is paying the same amount at her current house in D.C. as she was in Silver Spring. Although she no longer lives there, Gosine still works in downtown Silver Spring because she enjoyed the city’s atmosphere.

“I even recommended it to a friend,” she said, adding that the metro accessibility is very convenient.

Gosine said she moved out of Silver Spring because her rent increased by a couple hundred dollars this past leasing year. Currently Gosine is living in a house in D.C. which costs the same amount as when she was living in a Silver Spring apartment.

But Montgomery College freshman Aryeh said he prefers Silver Spring over D.C. any day. He enjoys how it’s smaller, cleaner, and quieter than the busy city of D.C.

“There isn’t that much crime either compared to D.C.,” he said.