Outlined in four phases and nine development blocks, the mixed-use development plan proposed for Kentlands Market Square by Kimco Realty is envisioned to span decades—and the sketch plan before the city Monday night should be seen as “a broad framework,” Kimco Director of Development Caren Garfield said.
Addressing both the Planning Commission and the Mayor and City Council, Garfield said that as the entire framework will be built over decades—some blocks 30 years out—“we’ve built in flexibility” to accommodate market forces. While the sketch plan asks for up to 1.2 million square feet of commercial and non-residential uses and up to 1,614 residential units on 21 acres—with building heights of two to eight stories—figures are either/or/combined. For instance, Block F, which should be developed in the next one to five years, proposes up to 310 residential units or up to 150,000 square feet of commercial on the surface parking lot area surrounded by Kentlands Boulevard and commercial buildings Buca di Beppo, the post office, My Gym and Orangetheory Fitness.
Possible non-residential uses include office, restaurant, retail, personal services, service businesses, banks, hotel, private education, theaters and public parking. Eight open space areas are envisioned as pocket parks, urban plazas that might accommodate special events, paseos and expanded sidewalks.
Garfield said that phasing for the project was determined by two factors. “One is our existing tenants to be able to have ongoing, successful operations and second is market demands and the need to develop in a measured and thoughtful manner over a period of time.”
Four phases of development were identified with timetables running one to five years for Phase 1, five to 10 years for Phase 2, 10 to 20 years for Phase 3, and 20 years and beyond for Phase 4.
Garfield said that while the “up to” building heights are a bit higher than those envisioned by the 2008 Kentlands Boulevard Commercial District Master Plan, care was taken to put tallest buildings and more density near Kentlands Boulevard and step down heights on shopping center edges near existing Kentlands residential and Main Street live-work units. “We looked closely at the compatibility of the blocks to the adjacent uses,” she said. “Along the edges of the property, we took cues from the uses and heights so that the new development complements and does not impose on the adjacent uses.”
Councilmember Ryan Spiegel noted that “any specific plan would require a full public hearing and a vote by the City Council to approve a site development plan.” This would happen per development block, and the city’s adequate public facilities ordinance would come into play at that time.
Still, Council and Planning Commission asked that Kimco keep certain concerns in mind as the development moves forward.
Councilmember Neil Harris said that adding the maximum number of residential units—1614—would substantially increase the population of Kentlands. Kentlands itself has approximately 2200 residential units, he noted, with ample green space. “The amount of green space in Kentlands versus the amount of green space shown on the sketch plan are vastly different. … I would have expected to see more green space integrated in the sketch plan. … I hope to see some thoughts on ways to improve that.”
Councilmember Mike Sesma asked about the parking structure envisioned for Block F and the location of its entrance. He also hoped that on-street parking will be maintained to better support retail.
Laurie-Anne Sayles expressed concern about the potential number of students generated by proposed residential.
The Planning Commission’s Lloyd Kauffman stressed that “access and visibility for live-work units (on Main Street) needs to be maintained.” Height of proposed buildings—six stepping down to four stories—in Block D might “block out access through the backend.”
Matthew Hipkins, Planning Commission member, asked for preliminary design guidelines for pocket parks, street sections, café.
Two city residents spoke during the Public Comments period. Marilyn Balcombe, president and CEO of the Gaithersburg-Germantown Chamber of Commerce, expressed excitement over the long-term vision but cautioned Kimco to keep small businesses in mind so that “there is no negative impact to existing businesses, especially during the construction phase.”
John Ingrassia, chair of the Kentlands Downtown Working Group, said that Kentlands Market Square is “our town square,” and he asked that the space be kept “intact, accessible and workable.” A two-story building in Block J that fronts the current square does not show pedestrian access from the Center Point Way/Market Street intersection.
The Planning Commission’s record will be held open until 5 p.m. Friday, May 25, and the Council’s record will be held open until 5 p.m. Friday, June 22. For more information, visit the city’s projects page at www.gaithersburgmd.gov/government/city-projects/kentlands-market-square.