Fran Randolph, who has led the Village at Kentlands and Lakelands group that has been helping seniors age in place since it piloted in 2014, recited the facts: “The redevelopment will only include rentals; a growing number of residents in Kentlands/Lakelands are 55-plus; many of these residents live in multilevel houses and townhouses; and if they want to downsize and continue to live in the community, their only options will be rentals since there are very few condos with elevators in the Kentlands/Lakelands.”
“Many feel with all the changes planned for downtown Kentlands and the large increase in residents with all these rental apartments planned that the community may change drastically and some of the community spirit that is so special about this New Urbanism community will be lost,” added Ann Drum, who also works with the Village.
In contrast, Kimco’s Caren E. Garfield, director of development for the Mid-Atlantic region, maintained that “rental units are the right product to achieve their (Kimco’s) goals,” that rentals in fact constitute “the ideal fit for the community, and will best support the existing retail, resulting in a truly synergistic mixed-use environment that will allow us to attract and retain the retailers that will best serve the community.” Also important, “the condo market tends to run hot and cold very dramatically, while the rental market remains more consistent,” she added.
Garfield defined the “target demographic” for the apartments as “broad,” including just about every category, but acknowledging that “we anticipate the highest demand coming from the young professionals, mature professionals and empty nester categories.”
Has Kimco considered the needs of people who already reside in the Kentlands/Lakelands—in single family and townhomes—and would want to buy a residence and remain in the neighborhood as they age?
“Yes, we have carefully considered current supply and the changing demographics of the area, and we consider this group part of the target demographic. Although these will be rental units rather than condos, we anticipate that they will be attractive to residents who want to remain in the community with the ease of apartment living,” Garfield said.
The apartments do have features that might be amenable to senior citizens, she noted. “The units are all one-story, all floors are accessible via an elevator (including to the parking levels), indoor and outdoor common areas to socialize and gather, 24-hour maintenance, on-site management staff, pet-friendly and central location with proximity to retail and services.”
Despite such explanations, Randolph realizes the developer’s decision is strictly economic. “Condos are not a good investment. Hence, money is driving the decision for the next phase of development here,” she said, adding that she doubts that “many older residents will be attracted to moving into large rental buildings. They might as well move into Asbury Methodist or Ingleside. So, I think the future development will be targeting younger people.”
Linda Natale is a case in point. Two years ago, after a couple of surgeries, the 65-year-old sold her three-story townhouse “with lots of steps inside the house and several steps to reach the front door,” and moved to a two-level condo-townhouse in the Lakelands, one of the “very few options” that satisfied her requirements.
The Colonnade, Natale said, was unsatisfactory “as there is only one elevator for the entire complex. The units I looked at required lots of walking to get from the garage and to the condo—not convenient for taking in groceries, etc. The other condo buildings with elevators were not quite right either—long walks and very small balconies.”
Now Natale worries about “what happens if I am not able to continue using the stairs?”
“I love this community and would like to stay here,” she said. “With all the new construction planned for the future, it seems that consideration for other options would be in the plan for redevelopment.”
What’s next in the quest to change minds of the powers that be? About a dozen age 55-plus Kentlands/Lakelands citizens at a recent forum appealed to an audience that included representatives of Kimco and the City of Gaithersburg for more non-rental housing options that would allow them to remain in their close-knit community, Drum said. “It was clear from Kimco they were only interested in rentals. However the mayor and city representatives were more receptive to these concerns.”
Thus, she added, “We at the Village have decided our best efforts to advocate for appropriate aging-friendly one-level/elevator condos as a housing choice is with the city rather than Kimco or Saul.” But, she admitted, “To date, other than speaking up at various meetings and forums, we have made little progress. We continue to be interested in our concerns being heard!”