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SG-W:/ AANews article favorable to Newmarket development



Sunday's Ann Arbor News has a front-page article, principally about 
Kentlands, another Duany/Plater-Zyberk designed "New Urbanism" development, 
and generally 
favorable to the Newmarket development. Here is the link:
http://aa.mlive.com/news/index.ssf?/news/stories/20001224a815a1sunakentlands24

.frm

And here's the text:

Reviews mixed for Md. New Urbanism Development cozy; but outside, cars rule 
Sunday, December 24, 2000
By TRACY DAVIS 
NEWS STAFF REPORTER 

Kentlands is a different way of life, say residents and creators of one of 
the nation's original "New Urban" developments.

People know their neighbors. They walk to the store for milk and coffee. 
Children walk home from school unescorted. Architects and beauty salon owners 
live in flats over their offices. Kentlands, they say, is its own bustling 
little village.

Such a village might be in the future for the Ann Arbor area. Kentlands bears 
a strong resemblance - including having the same design team - to Newmarket, 
a large development proposed for Pittsfield Township. And while the two 
projects would hardly be identical, the New Urbanist theory behind Newmarket 
has been in practice at Kentlands for years.

New Urbanism mimics mixed-use 19th- and early 20th-century style urban 
neighborhoods. It looks to the past to curb sprawl and build more functional 
neighborhoods for the future.

Located on 352 acres in the Maryland suburbs northwest of Washington, D.C., 
Kentlands is a 45-minute drive from congested downtown Washington. Wedged 
between two state highways off 12-lane I-270, Kentlands is on the edge of 
Gaithersburg - an Ann Arbor-sized city in one of suburban Washington's 
wealthiest, most highly educated counties.

Kentlands' roughly 4,000 residents - living in a mix of 1,600 houses, 
townhouses, condominiums and apartments - say they've found suburban nirvana 
and wouldn't live anywhere else.

The development has several entrances. The main one is off Maryland highway 
28, which winds through several miles of subdivisions pocked with the 
occasional farm.

Just inside the main entrance is Rachel Carson Elementary School, named for 
the writer and Washington-area environmentalist. Past the school are a 
day-care center and church, and down a boulevard with a grassy median and 
sidewalks on either side, houses of various design - brick Colonials, 
wood-sided Victorians and federal-style homes -crowd the street. The houses 
are surprisingly close: Some are 20 feet apart, some only five.

The front yards are bounded by white picket or iron fences. Most yards are 
only about 10 feet deep; many have front porches. Back yards are also small. 
Garages are tucked behind the houses and accessible through narrow alleys. 
Some of the larger homes have garage apartments, or "granny flats."

For a 12-year-old subdivision, Kentlands feels aged. That's the idea.

Leave the trees standing, build public space and parks, give people a town 
center to walk to for a movie or a 10 p.m. gallon of 2-percent. They'll meet 
their neighbors, get involved in the community, drive less and make the 
world, or at least their neighborhood, a better place.

That's the goal. But is it working?


The houses
The building code calls for brick, wood or stone; vinyl siding and other 
inexpensive materials are prohibited. Despite the traditional neighborhood 
design, the houses are thoroughly modern.

Kentlands successfully avoids the homogeneity of modern subdivisions with its 
variety of floor plans, sizes, styles and colors. Part of this was 
intentional; part of it is because Kentlands developers wound up working with 
a number of builders.

"They look so different," said Mary Charters, a real estate agent who moved 
to Kentlands six years ago. "Kentlands looks like a very old established 
neighborhood."

Half the homes are multi-family condominiums or apartments, 30 percent are 
single-family detached homes, and 20 percent are townhouses.

Following New-Urban ideals, the 3,000-square-foot mansions are mixed among 
the townhouses; cottages are built near apartments.

But you won't find one of Kentlands' high-end homes backing up to Kentlands 
Square, one of the two shopping centers. The apartments and most of the 
condominiums - the least expensive housing available at Kentlands - are 
clustered around the shopping centers, a buffer for the pricier homes.

Sale prices are mostly high-end, even for suburban D.C. While it's still 
possible to buy a small condominium for around $150,000, the houses - even 
the 1,350-square-foot "cottages" -start at $300,000. Houses top out at $1.2 
million.

Demand helps keep prices high. According to real estate agents and 
Gaithersburg planners, the concept is selling well.

"I had a listing a year ago for $450,000," Charters said. "Then (the family) 
moved again and they sold that same house for $600,000 12 months later. I 
mean, this is a 2,600-square-foot house! And they put maybe $20,000 worth of 
work into it, with new paint and hardwood floors. It's wild. People love it 
here."

Real estate studies show Kentlands properties have appreciated 30 percent 
over the past year and a half, and sell now for 15 percent more than 
comparable homes in the area.


The roads
One of the central New Urban tenets calls for narrow, interconnecting, 
grid-style streets. That slows traffic, as does on-street parking, and helps 
traffic flow through neighborhoods. But the days when smaller cars can 
navigate slowly through narrow streets are clearly over. American cars have 
grown larger and larger. Now, a midsize sedan must wait until a Chevy 
Suburban has finished turning right at an intersection before it can get past.

"It slows the cars, but it also slows the police car and the ambulance and 
the fire truck," said Dorn McGrath, professor of urban and regional planning 
at George Washington University in Washington.

That worry was an issue during the building stage, said Clark Wagner, a 
veteran planner with the City of Gaithersburg. The local public safety 
departments were involved at various stages to make sure quick police and 
fire protection and emergency medical access were planned.

As with any increase in population, Kentlands increased traffic on area 
roads, as Newmarket is expected to do. But since the development was built 
out over 12 years - Newmarket would be built over 15 - the impact was diluted 
by time.

"There are a lot of people who walk around," said Wagner. "That was the goal. 
Give them a place to walk to, and it will become a much more walkable place."


The shopping centers
During the recession of the early 1990s, Chevy Chase Savings & Loan 
foreclosed on Kentlands' developer, Joseph Alfandre. The bank then sold one 
of the commercial district parcels to a strip-mall developer, who built 
Kentlands Square with the typical expanse of asphalt and chain stores such as 
a Giant supermarket, Kmart and Lowe's.

New Urbanism calls for fewer parking spaces away from store fronts because it 
looks better and encourages walking. And residents said during public 
planning sessions they wanted quaint cafes and restaurants, not fast-food 
joints and big-box stores.

"Even though the shopping center didn't fit into the concept of a traditional 
neighborhood, everybody sort of had to swallow their pride," Wagner said.

"There was a lot of discussion about how terrible the Kmart was going to be," 
he said. "But 90 percent of the shoppers there are from this zip code."

Across Kentlands Boulevard is Market Square.

Though some of the stores are still vacant, this center is more traditional. 
It features a 1950s-style diner, a bakery, coffee shop, flower shop and other 
small, often independently owned businesses. A small parking lot is tucked 
behind the center, away from the stores, and limited on-street parking is 
available in front.

"Parking is a problem," said Karen Fenner, who co-owns The Wine Harvest - a 
cafe, wine bar and shop in Market Square - with partner Lynn Nellius. "They 
want people to walk here, but Americans want to park within two feet of the 
front door."

McGrath said parking is a problem throughout Kentlands.

"Parking is very difficult because people are trying so hard to pretend the 
car doesn't exist," he said. "They're hard to handle in a community that 
seeks to be like Williamsburg once was, so you end up with some rather 
awkward parking arrangements. And in Kentlands, you need a car to get there, 
or anywhere outside of Kentlands."


The concept
Not everyone agrees New Urbanism, and Kentlands, have been a complete 
success. The concept has been called grand fraud, sprawl in disguise, new 
suburbanism.

Alex Marshall, a writer who specializes in urban planning and design, wrote 
in a 1996 Metropolis magazine article about Kentlands: "New Urbanists propose 
building what are essentially streetcar suburbs, without the transportation 
systems that originally supported those kind of neighborhoods. This is a 
fruitless exercise. The result, at best, is a place that looks like 
Georgetown but functions like any other subdivision built off the 
(Washington) Beltway."

In other words, Kentlands may pry the fingers off the collective steering 
wheel and get neighbors talking over fences again, but it doesn't stop people 
from driving hundreds of miles a week for work and other trips.

Mike Watkins - an architect with the Miami firm Duany Plater-Zyberk & Co., 
the designer of Kentlands and Newmarket - lives and works in Kentlands. He 
said the design works.

"Adults increasingly choose not to drive," he said. "Do they never leave 
Kentlands? No. But that was never the intent."

Marshall concluded that New Urbanism prevents society from dealing with 
issues such as farmland preservation, sprawl and significantly reducing car 
use. But Dorney argued that land will be gobbled up regardless, bit by bit. 
If development continued that way, "you'd get no (open) land, you get all 
private yards. New Urbanism gives back open space... right at the beginning."

Although the Metro station - Washington's public rail system - serves 
Gaithersburg, 85 percent of the work force drives to work alone, according to 
the U.S. Census Bureau. Numbers are not available specifically for Kentlands.

"It's a hefty commute," Charters said. She estimated somewhere around half of 
employed Kentlands residents work in Washington.

In addition to having a swim team, a garden club, its own community newspaper 
and various men's and women's clubs, Kentlands has walking trails, a 
playground and tennis courts. But some argue that the sense of a small-town 
community is contrived. 

"It takes quite a while for a community spirit to evolve," McGrath said. "You 
don't get an instant participating community because you built some cute 
houses."

Supporters, however, remain adamant about the value of Kentlands and New 
Urbanism. Said Tony Rouhani, Kentlands' community manager: "I honestly think 
it's a thing of the future."



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