Wednesday, May 3, 2023

Silver Spring's newest building, aquatic center named for Ike Leggett

Former Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett served three terms during some of the most-challenging economic conditions the jurisdiction has faced in its history. As a result, Leggett did not have the luxury or opportunity to leave behind a signature project that was closely associated with his legacy. That will change tomorrow, May 4, 2023, when a new senior housing apartment tower and full-scale aquatic center will be christened The Leggett. Located at 1315 Apple Avenue in downtown Silver Spring, the 16-story development includes 267 affordable apartments for seniors 62 and older, public health amenities that include a Holy Cross Hospital Wellness Center, and the glassed-in ground floor aquatic center with an Olympic-size pool. The latter will be for public use by all Montgomery County residents.

Ike Leggett and a volunteer officially
close the old Wheaton Library forever
in March 2016

Leggett, a Vietnam veteran, is one of the most highly-respected politicians and leaders in the county. That's one reason Maryland Gov. Wes Moore will be attending the dedication ceremony tomorrow, along with County Executive Marc Elrich and Montgomery County Council President Evan Glass. You can be sure Moore will note how fitting it is that he, as first African-American governor of Maryland, will be there to honor the man who was the first African-American County Councilmember and County Executive.

Leggett played nearly every imaginable political role in the county and state over his career. But he was never one to put political concerns over what was right. I recall that some developer-backed proponents of maximizing density in White Oak unleashed despicable attacks on former County Councilmember Marilyn Praisner during the White Oak sector plan debate. They insinuated that Praisner was racist, and tried to block development in her Council district, which included White Oak. What made it especially despicable, was that Praisner had died many years prior, and could not defend herself from these false attacks.

The ordinary citizen familiar with Praisner's career knew the truth: Praisner was never a racist; her legislative record showed exactly the opposite. Her district has one of the largest percentages of multifamily housing in the county, which clearly was not blocked from being built, and is one of the most diverse in Montgomery. Praisner's only "crime" was in supporting responsible growth policies, and annoying developers in the process. But the ordinary citizen didn't have the platform or recognition to speak in Praisner's defense.

I will always remember that Leggett stepped in to publicly correct the record on Praisner's behalf. He didn't have to, and he risked some political capital in doing so. Having served alongside Praisner and being one of the most prominent residents of her district, he had more credibility than anyone in addressing the topic, and he successfully put the kibosh on the reprehensible attack on her character and record. 

The Leggett will very appropriately carry its namesake's legacy into the future. If you felt you should take a shot of strong liquor every time Leggett expressed concern for "the most vulnerable" in our community, you know it was one of his driving values. Here are 16 stories of brand-new apartments for our most vulnerable seniors. Here, too, are state-of-the-art aquatic facilities that will be open to people of all income levels. Thousands of people will pass through the aquatic center's doors in the coming decades. A very fitting tribute to one of the most important political figures in Montgomery County history.

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