Town Architect Urges Design Changes for Luxury Apartment Building

Illustrations | Duany Plater-Zyberk DPZ’s suggested redesign for entry from Kentlands Boulevard along the new Commerce Square Place incorporates more public space and adds more parking.

Illustrations | Duany Plater-Zyberk
DPZ’s suggested redesign for entry from Kentlands Boulevard along the new Commerce Square Place incorporates more public space and adds more parking.

Kentlands Town Architect Marina Khoury, a partner with Duany Plater-Zyberk (DPZ), shared suggestions for Kimco’s Phase 2 redevelopment of Kentlands Market Square at the Jan. 23 Kentlands Citizens Assembly Board (KCA) meeting.

Proposed is a six-story luxury apartment building with ground floor commercial and a threestory garage in “Block F” or the Buca di Beppo parking lot. Khoury’s suggestions focused on enhancing the beauty of the building and its environs while creating a more inviting and pedestrian-friendly streetscape.

Kimco plans to bring its designs to the city soon, and Khoury suggested that the KCA, Lakelands Community Association and residents advocate for design changes. The KCA, on Jan. 28, announced it “has adopted the position of the Kentlands Town Architect DPZ relating to the KIMCO development of Block F of the Kentlands Market Square Development as presented to the KCA Board of Trustees at its January 23, 2019 Board meeting, as the position of the KCA. The KCA has authorized DPZ to advocate accordingly on our behalf with KIMCO, the City of Gaithersburg and any related parties.”

Khoury stressed that professionally and personally as a resident of Lakelands she is happy to see this Phase 2 project take shape. “We like the fact that it’s a mixed-use building in this location. We like the general massing, density and height. … We like the fact that the retail is facing the new paseo. We like the courtyard—we think that’s a nice design. We think the unit mix should be determined by them (Kimco) and not by the city, and the fact that they want to beautify the alley in the back is also a good thing,” she said.

Another plus, the condos currently located behind the block with Buca di Beppo to Orangetheory Fitness will benefit from increased space between the buildings. Current retailers will be relocated within the center and that block will be demolished. The new luxury apartment building “has been pulled back from the condos,” pointed out Michael Weich, project manager with DPZ.

Khoury urged residents not to take issue with Phase 2 specifications already approved in Kimco’s sketch plan—up to 310 residential units, up to 150,000 square feet of retail, and up to six stories in height. “The sketch plan has already been  approved,” she said. “That’s not up for debate, so let’s not have a discussion about that because it’s a done deal.”

But drilling down into the design details of the plan, Khoury cited a number of issues. “We want to support this,” she said, “but there are a couple of changes that have to happen for us to support it.”

First impressions matter. Entry from Kentlands Boulevard via the new Commerce Square Place “looks like an entry into a parking lot,” Khoury said. “Presumably it’s the first time people are entering our center and it does not look like a street, it looks like a parking lot. … So, you redesign the entry street to not look like a parking drive.”

Parking needs to be reconfigured. Designs show an “exposed parking garage … facing the community.” A 40-foot wide service and parking access point is shown along Center Point Way, opening toward the movie theatre.

“Go look at the loading off of Whole Foods. Do we want that on what is considered an ‘A’ street?” Khoury asked. She  suggested moving service entry to the alley on the condo side of the building. “If you have an alley, you service the building from an alley, not a street,” she said.

Also, current design of the building shows the exposed parking garage facing Center Point Way and residential units facing Kentlands Boulevard. Khoury suggested flipping this so that residential faces Center Point Way and the parking garage faces Kentlands Boulevard.

Architecture must reflect Kentlands. The building as currently designed is “chaotic, frenetic and it has nothing to do with Kentlands,” Khoury said. “It looks like every other building up and down Shady Grove.”

To calm the building down, Khoury suggested using fewer materials and articulating them horizontally as much as possible, as well as incorporating the red brick characteristic of Kentlands. Add cornices at the top of the building as a defining element, and make the building more people-scale with muntins on windows except for storefronts, she added. Additional proposed architectural guidelines include using natural materials for the building base where it meets the street to provide a better pedestrian experience and showing a minimum depth of three inches at frontages to avoid the appearance of cheap, paper-thin facades with glazed openings.

Khoury stressed the need for better guidelines to ensure good urbanism. “Nothing in the city’s current documents tells us how to properly assess a plan, and certainly nothing in the city’s current processes guarantees good urbanism. It is an absolute protracted long negotiation with the city that each developer has to have,” she said.

At a Jan. 15 presentation to the Kentlands Downtown Working Group, Kimco representatives said they hope to submit designs to the city next month and start building within 18 months. The imperative, Khoury said, is for the Kentlands community to speak with one voice now to advocate for necessary design changes.