Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Kensington Shopping Center to get new look

E-mail this article \ Print this article

Courtesy of MV+A Architects
Bethesda-based MV+A Architects plan to renovate the storefronts of the Kensington Shopping Center located at Knowles and Connecticut Avenues. Work is expected to begin in August and finish in December.
The Kensington Shopping Center, located at the corner of Knowles and Connecticut avenues, will get a facelift, according to an architect representing the center’s owners.

Allen Mushinsky, of Bethesda-based MV+A Architects, described the new look planned for the center at a Kensington Town Council Meeting Monday night.

Home to stores like Hardware City, Continental Pizza and audio-video store Soundworks, the shopping center has been the target of criticism from residents and town officials in recent years because of its appearance, which some say looks dated and unattractive.

‘‘We’re pleased that they are doing a facelift,” said Mayor Peter Fosselman. ‘‘I know ‘facelift’ is a crude expression in the world of architecture, but this is a vast improvement.”

Two buildings on the property will have faded blue paint replaced with a red brick and tan stucco façade, Mushinsky said. Construction could begin in early August and be finished around the end of the holiday season in December.

Some residents and council members hoped for more than a facelift on the storefronts.

‘‘We’re one of the most underutilized areas in terms of development with a MARC station here and Metro only a mile and a half away,” said resident Mackie Barch. ‘‘Was there any thought for a public private partnership to do more on this site?”

Mushinsky said that was his first suggestion when his firm was chosen to redesign the property, but the three owners are hesitant to redevelop the property because they earn their living off the rent from the five tenants.

It would take a large sum of money to turn the shopping center into a mix of residential and retail uses, and it’s not something the owners are willing to pursue now, Mushinsky said.

Along with the façade changes, handrails will be installed on the narrow sidewalk between the Connecticut Avenue storefronts and the busy highway to increase safety.

‘‘There is a potential tripping hazard there,” Mushinsky said. ‘‘If you’re going to widen the sidewalk we would take the [railings] out. Whatever we’re doing is reversible, easily reversible for whatever comes next.”

Town council members said that they are working with the state to narrow Connecticut Avenue at that intersection to make the area more pedestrian friendly.

New council members sworn in

After swearing in two new members Monday night, the Kensington Town Council promptly voted on changing the dates of meetings and switched from assigning committees to areas of interest.

New councilmen Sean McMullen and John Thompson were sworn into office. Both were elected to the council in an uncontested election last month.

The council voted unanimously at Monday night’s meeting to reschedule all future meetings from the first and last Monday of each month, to the second and fourth. The next meetings will take place at 7 p.m., July 28 and Aug. 11, at the town hall, 3710 Mitchell St., Kensington.

The council also switched from choosing committees to chair, to instead chairing areas of interest. Previously council members headed committees that dealt with specific issues like traffic safety, business revitalization or parks. This year, the council members will be responsible for areas of interest instead of chairing specific committees.

The change was made because since the council hired town manager Sanford Daily to handle day-to-day operations of the town in April, some duties overlapped.

‘‘Basically, we’re just selecting areas of interest,” Fosselman said at the meeting. ‘‘We can lean on Sanford for information and he will help you all.”

Councilwoman Mary Donatelli will handle town business related to business revitalization, signage and artistic events and performances.

Fosselman will handle town business related to town staff and technology.

McMullen will be responsible for overseeing the town finances as well as streetscape, environmental issues and historic preservation.

Councilwoman Sharon Scott will oversee traffic and public safety matters as well as town parks.

Thompson will administer strategic planning issues as well as land use and infrastructure issues.