Mayor Jud Ashman said, “This is a work in progress” at the close of the June 17 Mayor and City Council/Planning Commission joint public hearing for the six-story multi-use building with structured parking proposed for Kentlands Market Square. The project to revitalize “Block F,” now a surface parking lot bounded by Kentlands Boulevard, Commerce Square Place, Center Point Way and a block of retail that includes Buca di Beppo and the U.S. Post Office, is now in schematic development plan phase.
Kimco Realty, owners of Kentlands Market Square, propose 245 residential apartments, composed of 14 studios, 127 one-bedroom units, 96 two-bedroom units and eight three-bedroom units in a six-story, three-elevator building. Fifteen percent or 37 units will be designated affordable housing. Ground-floor retail will occupy 12,150 square feet. A structured garage will offer 576 parking spaces—341 spaces will be for residential and 235 for retail.
Caren Garfield, Kimco director of development, and Ryan Kautz, the project’s architect with Hord Coplan Macht, previewed the building, its architecture, organization and traffic flow for city officials and the many Kentlands and Lakelands residents who attended the hearing.
Residents came out to voice support for modifications detailed in a letter sent into the public record by Kentlands Town Architect Marina Khoury, also a partner with Duany Plater-Zyberk (DPZ), and signed by the Kentlands Citizens Assembly, the Lakelands Community Association, the Kentlands Downtown Working Group and the Villages of Kentlands & Lakelands.
“This is the first time in our recollection that so many different organizations agree wholeheartedly on recommendations moving forward,” Khoury said during the evening’s public comments period, before she read the letter.
While extending strong “support for Kimco’s building. It will boost our long-term economic and social viability,” the letter stated that community approval for the project would be contingent on detailed modifications. At issue are the building’s unlined parking garage and its 40- to 50-foot service access and parking entries along Center Point Way that are not in keeping with a New Urbanist walkable community and don’t support four-sided architecture, as well as the building’s overall architecture with its undulating, vertically articulated façades and variety of materials.
Kautz stressed that an effort has gone into making the building’s large footprint feel smaller and blend better with Kentlands. “Instead of creating a continuous façade (along Commerce Square Place), we’ve sort of eroded the façade to create these wonderful courtyard spaces that help break down the building and make it feel like a series of separate buildings,” he said. “This actually reduces the overall number of units that we can have in the building, but we feel it creates a much better experience for the pedestrians and the retail patrons, and it also provides more light and air to the retail promenade below and allows for more desirable corner units.”
On Center Point Way, “there are special breaks in the massing where we’ve had balconies coming down to create almost like a large townhouse read to the façade, and that helps break down the massing again,” he continued. “And we’ve even brought this up to the roofline so we’re not just getting this long, straight roofline. We’re getting this really articulated breakdown of the massing, so it feels more like smaller buildings as you’re going along.”
Building materials, too, were used to make scale feel more accessible to pedestrians, he noted.
Community members who spoke during the public comments period expressed support for the multi-use building as well as concern over traffic flow, sufficient and free parking, and the potential loss of current Block F retail, especially the Kentlands Post Office.
John Ingrassia, Kentlands Downtown Working Group chair, stressed the need for active use along Center Point Way.
Karen Norris, Kentlands Citizens Assembly trustee, said, “We are very happy to have Kimco as partners. Their plans are good.” But she urged Kimco to consider modifications suggested by the Kentlands town architect to make their plans better.
Garfield assured those assembled that current Block F retail would be relocated in the center. Sufficient parking was established and approved at the sketch plan phase, she said, and parking would remain free of charge. She explained the use of Center Point Way for garage entry and an unlined parking garage: “The grade along Center Point Way does not lend itself well to good retail space.”
Planning Commission Chair John Bauer cautioned that building architecture really cannot be considered until final site plan phase. “However, with the robust presentation given at this stage we have to no doubt acknowledge what works and what doesn’t and put it there on the record. But to be clear, it will be directional in terms of recommended approval or not. There are probably lots of things to think about and talk about as it moves to final site plan.”
The Planning Commission record will remain open until 5 p.m. on July 31 with a recommendation to the Mayor and City Council tentatively scheduled for Aug. 7. The Mayor and City Council record will remain open until 5 p.m. on Aug. 14 with a policy discussion tentatively scheduled for Sept. 3.