Wednesday, Feb. 6, 2008

Draft vision for Kentlands CBD is on the books

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Residents envision the Kentlands Commercial Business District as the ‘‘Kentlands Downtown,” where jobs, retail, residences and recreation can converge.

City planners recently completed a draft of the district, which will guide future development.

‘‘It’s very important, both from the standpoint of redeveloping and intensifying the commercial district and creating a more pedestrian-friendly, and hopefully more transit-oriented, central core for Kentlands and Lakelands and all of Westside Gaithersburg,” said Richard Arkin, a Kentlands resident and former Kentlands Community Association trustee. ‘‘It’s also very important for making sure that the Corridor Center Transitway ends up in the right place.”

The business district is an 80-acre commercial area divided by Kentlands Boulevard that runs from Kentlands Square Shopping Center and Kentlands Place to Market Square Shopping Center, Market Street, Main Street and the town square. The city’s 2003 Master Plan Update identified the sector as one of 10 special study areas needing community-involved review.

In June, the city began a six-month process that included a design charrette and public workshops. Gaithersburg’s mayor, City Council and Planning Commission will review recommendations at a joint public hearing on March 17.

A key question was the location of a future Corridor Cities Transitway stop.

The CCT is slated to run northwest of Great Seneca Highway and turn through MedImmune Inc.’s commercial laboratory center and residential Quince Orchard Park. An alternative, the plan suggests, is a CCT stop on the southwest side of the highway, with a pedestrian bridge crossing to the other side.

‘‘Transit then becomes the focal point of the surrounding development,” said Arkin. ‘‘It really becomes a source of energy, it will become the heart of a real uptown Gaithersburg.”

The Maryland Transit Administration is reviewing the suggested realignment. Decision-making factors will include impacts, costs, effects on ridership and land use opportunities, state Department of Transportation Secretary John Porcari wrote in a Jan. 14 letter to Mayor Sidney A. Katz.

The vision plan ‘‘seems to reflect the kind of new Urbanist design principles that Gaithersburg pioneered in Kentlands and takes them to a higher level,” Arkin said.

Short-to-mid-term adjustments will lay a foundation for the long-term vision. Making Kentlands Boulevard intersections safer is a key goal. Designs show more pedestrian crossings and connecting an expanded Giant Foods store to the Colonnade condominium complex by a walkway or street. Plans also suggest a Main Street Business Association, directional signage, more live-work units and parking, including garages.

The long-term plan holds retail, denser development, 4- to 6-story buildings, and 8- to-12 story buildings in a multi-story mixed-use development near the CCT stop.

Market Street and Centerpoint Way will remain primary shopping streets; development between Main Street and Kentlands Boulevard could improve pedestrian shopping. Plans show improved streetscapes, an open space in the district’s northern sector and redevelopment at the corner of Booth Street and along Kentland Boulevard.

‘‘I’m very excited to see this happening and I think there are a lot of positive changes that can and need to be made,” said Eileen Schlichting, former chairwoman of the Kentlands Community Foundation and wife of former City Councilman John Schlichting.

‘‘They can call it anything they want,” she said. ‘‘I honestly think the terminology of the area is less important than the functionality of the area. It’s getting it to work beautifully that is the key here.”