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Live Nation Deal in Silver Spring Sparks Debate

Not all Silver Spring residents are celebrating the likelihood of a Fillmore music hall in the downtown arts district. Local e-mail discussion groups are abuzz with chatter from residents who complain that the required $4 million investment from the County Council and another $4 million from the state would not be wise investments.

For those who missed the news, County Executive Isiah Leggett (D) announced a tentative deal last week with music producer Live Nation to build one of its Fillmore music clubs at Colesville Road and Georgia Avenue, in the old J.C. Penney location. Live Nation, one of the world's largest producer of live concerts, was spun off in 2005 from Clear Channel Communications.

"An $8 million subsidy for a publicly traded company is not a good use of taxpayer funds," said Rich Swanson, a Silver Spring resident who started the group Save the Birchmere when negotiations to bring a branch of the Alexandria music hall to the same building fell apart in July. "This is a big business, and taxpayers should not be paying to jump-start this development."

Others neighbors said they worried about the potential for young, raucous crowds at the club, which is planned to hold up to 2,000 people.

Leggett said this week that the money is intended to "spur economic development in a location and time you want," no different from taxpayer incentives for companies such as Discovery in downtown Silver Spring.

As evidence, Leggett pointed to a study released Monday that shows that the nonprofit arts and cultural industry in the county have a $117 million impact on the local economy.

The figure is a combination of $51.6 million in spending by cultural organizations on salaries, supplies and the like, in addition to $65.4 million in spending by audiences on food, parking and souvenirs associated with cultural events.

The numbers, compiled as part of a survey by the nonprofit group Americans for the Arts, show more of an economic impact from the arts in Montgomery County than , or Arlington, Fairfax and Prince George's counties.

By Anne Bartlett  |  October 4, 2007; 10:16 AM ET
Categories:  Ann Marimow  
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I must question the wisdom of economic incentives. Silver Spring is hardly in need of revitalization and for the county to hand-out cash to one of the most vibrant entertainment companies in America is wasteful.

The rush by the County Exec to fill the whole left by the Birchmere was a folly. There has to be a natural, sustainable development that needs to take place. A commercial entity needs to take risk in order to contribute to the growth of the community.

What incentive does Live Nation have when all their expenses are essentially paid by the County. When they're having problems, they leave - they don't try to correct/contribute. Then we're left where we were when we began - minus $8 million.

All this foolishness to cut a ribbon.

Posted by: Mark Anderson | October 4, 2007 11:29 AM | Report abuse

This project is undercutting Strathmore which isn't close to being paid for. If you want to bring people to Silver Spring, bring a WalMart. I've talked to many to drive to Germantown for the only WalMart in Montgomery County. And you would save $8 million that could be used to cut property taxes.

Posted by: Robin Ficker of Robin Realty | October 4, 2007 9:50 PM | Report abuse

Unfortunately your (and my) county council passed law that blocks any "super-store" to enter the county because they are not inline with the smart growth policy. So no new Wal-Marts, super Targets, and worst of all Wegmans.

Posted by: Josh | October 5, 2007 11:49 AM | Report abuse

Young people! AHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!! teenagers might actually go to the otherside of City Place again to see a band they like. Something must be done about this.

Ok, enough sarcasm. There's certainly a legitimate debate about the tax dollars, but the audience debate is just stupid. Live Nation coudl certainly be tossing in alot more of the funding, at least half.

Posted by: EricS | October 5, 2007 1:23 PM | Report abuse

I just noticed something, why aren't there any Black writters on Washington Post's Maryland moment segment?

Posted by: Anonymous | October 5, 2007 3:25 PM | Report abuse

About that Live Nation Filmore Music Hall. How large a facility are we talking about? The store that originally occupied the site, the former J. C. Penny was not incredibly large.

You have an individual from Live Nation responsible for the project saying that a 2000 person capacity for that site in Silver Spring fits perfectly. But I suggest that the number of people is not the issue. The issue is how large a facility will Live Nation have to construct to handle a capacity of 2000 people. More importantly how will that construction effect smaller businesses located on either side of the proposed site. Will they be demolished in order to accommodate the music hall?

The next issue, why should the county be allowed to squander any more money on developing downtown Silver Spring. They have already funded two autrocities; two huge parking garages. One of those parking garages, located on Ellsworth Drive was built to replace a fairly new garage on the opposite side of Ellsworth though that garage was not as large as the present facility, it was entirely the same length. The second parking garage, is one block down on Wayne Ave and not only parallels Ellsworth Drive but backs up against the new businesses on Ellworth Drive.

The reason for frantically building this second parking garage on Wayne St. was because the parking garage on Ellsworth, as large as it was ready yet to accommodate the new businesses already opened on Ellsworth Drive.

I say this to County Executive Isiah Legget and any one else in county government with interest this project, "Stop squandering county money on private companies that are rich enough to build their own music halls. You have issues more important to Montgomery County than music halls;issues such as education, health and safety. You were elected by the people of Montgomery County, not Live Nation. We come first, they don't."

Michael Mendelson
Rockville, MD

Posted by: michael mendelson | October 7, 2007 2:24 PM | Report abuse

Mr Ficker is way off. Montgomery county does not need another crappy Wal-Mart; who is he kidding? As for Target, we've already got several. Including one just a few miles from downtown Silver Spring in Wheaton. Remember that?

As for the article, I'm all for using public dollars to support private development in the Silver Spring area, but I can't see how "LiveNation" brings any of the benefits this sort of investment is supposed to generate.
The concert hall will only DETRACT from development at Ga & Colesville. It'd make more sense to put it a little further South on GeorgiaAve where the blight is still going strong.

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