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SG-W:/ AANews article favorable to Newmarket development
- Subject: SG-W:/ AANews article favorable to Newmarket development
- From: Rober98@aol.com
- Date: Mon, 25 Dec 2000 00:03:47 EST
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Sunday's Ann Arbor News has a front-page article, principally about
Kentlands, another Duany/Plater-Zyberk designed "New Urbanism" development,
favorable to the Newmarket development. Here is the link:
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
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
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 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
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
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
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.
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
"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
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."
Not everyone agrees New Urbanism, and Kentlands, have been a complete
success. The concept has been called grand fraud, sprawl in disguise, new
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
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
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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