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Dining in Kentlands


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Before I started writing this, I did a quick search on the site to see if a thread already existed for Vasili's. There was mention of this place in a thread which turned into a discussion about the woeful lack of "mom and pop" joints. If ever a place was the antithesis of "mom and pop" it's The Kentlands, a faux village where you have to look around the corner of each building to make sure it isn't just a 2-dimensional facade like you'd find on a movie set.

In the middle this Truman Show-like neighborhood you'll find Vasili's Mediterranean Grill. I'm happy to have found it based on my meal there last night. The place is casual and friendly, and mom and pop know what they're doing in the kitchen. For starters we had some stuffed grape leaves in avgolemono sauce ($8). They tasted freshly made, not like something that had been sitting in a storage container for days like I've tasted elsewhere. I also had some tender grilled baby octopus ($11) which was as good as I'd expect at a place like Black Salt or Hook. The lamb souvlaki ($13) was enjoyable with its tender flavorful meat, fresh veggies, and what seemed to be homemade pita.

My only complaint would be the somewhat dull Greek salad that came with my entree. The dressing was too heavy and they were skimpy on the feta which lacked the briny flavor I expected. Give me a few more olives too!

Vasili's isn't going to blow you away, but its good honest solid cooking. They deserve to do well, and I look forward to going back. I want to try that grilled branzino.

While I agree with the comments on the restaurant based upon the merits of it's food, I have to disagree on your assessment of the Kentlands.  I know that everyone has and is entitled to an opinion, but I think you are overly harsh on the Kentlands/Lakelands.  Both are a great friendly neighborhoods, with lots of amenities, friendly people, all in a walkable neighborhood.  I really can't understand what is so Truman Show about the neighborhoods.  It is not sterile, there is lots of variety of houses and a really nice place to raise a family.  Sorry to veer off course of the goal of this site, and I may be biased because I live here, but I completely disagree with your assessment of the neighborhood.

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While I agree with the comments on the restaurant based upon the merits of it's food, I have to disagree on your assessment of the Kentlands.  I know that everyone has and is entitled to an opinion, but I think you are overly harsh on the Kentlands/Lakelands.  Both are a great friendly neighborhoods, with lots of amenities, friendly people, all in a walkable neighborhood.  I really can't understand what is so Truman Show about the neighborhoods.  It is not sterile, there is lots of variety of houses and a really nice place to raise a family.  Sorry to veer off course of the goal of this site, and I may be biased because I live here, but I completely disagree with your assessment of the neighborhood.

It's the architecture, and if you think about all the wonderful neighborhoods that are in crummy physical developments, architecture does not a neighborhood make.

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It's the architecture, and if you think about all the wonderful neighborhoods that are in crummy physical developments, architecture does not a neighborhood make.

What's the problem with the architecture?  If you take a walk through the neighborhoods, and open your eyes, you will see that there is great diversity in the architecture of the houses.  This certainly does not hold up for the majority of the commercial areas (where Lowes and Giant are located), this is where Joe Alfandre's vision ended (much has been written about why this happened).  The Kentlands is widely regarded as one of the most successful examples of new urbanism.  But, like I said in my original post, everyone is entitled to an opinion.

From a dinning perspective, the Kentlands has faltered lately, and I don't know the real reason why.  Some say the rents for restaurant spaces has risen too high.  Some say that the density isn't enough to support the offerings.  There is still some really good places to eat, Le Palais, Pacifica, YoYogi Sushi (good for what it is), Boulevard Tavern, Giuseppie's Pizza.

The other nice thing is that on Friday night, I can park my car and leave it parked for (most) of the weekend.  If I am doing a home improvement project, it's faster to walk to Lowe's.  If I realize I am missing an ingredient for the stew I am making, I have Whole Foods and Giant in walking distance.  I can go on and on.

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What's the problem with the architecture?  If you take a walk through the neighborhoods, and open your eyes, you will see that there is great diversity in the architecture of the houses.  This certainly does not hold up for the majority of the commercial areas (where Lowes and Giant are located), this is where Joe Alfandre's vision ended (much has been written about why this happened).  The Kentlands is widely regarded as one of the most successful examples of new urbanism.  But, like I said in my original post, everyone is entitled to an opinion.

Unless you live in Kentlands, the commercial areas are the only places you see. So, to answer your first question: It's ugly, "mall-like," and inorganic - this is pretty depressing.

pras, you're one of our best members, which is why the "everyone is entitled to an opinion" comment is beneath you! If you think I'm flat-out wrong, come right out and say, "Don, you're flat-out wrong!" and tell me why! I do not argue; I discuss things, with my ultimate goal not "to win" the debate, but "to learn" from the conversation. I remain completely open-minded about Kentlands.

I know you must feel strongly about Kentlands, knowing it better than the rest of us do (and yes, that *does* give your opinions more weight, at least in my eyes), but that commercial area really is something of an eyesore (which even you imply) - Joe Alfrandre might have made a great place to live, but as a dining or shopping destination, it could be Merrifield, Columbia Heights, Broadlands, Silver Spring, or any of a dozen other places in the area. The "If you build it, they will come" force is strong here, as opposed to letting a neighborhood grow organically over time. Just my opinion, of course, but you said everyone is entitled to an opinion. :)

Call me old-fashioned - no, call me *ancient* - but I think the "design, build, get paid, and flee" mentality is ruining this country's architectural heritage, which is on shaky ground to begin with. It seems like it all started here with Columbia (1967) and Reston (1964). Is there any single thing in those two communities of architectural significance or beauty, other than perhaps the city-wide blueprint as a historical document? Not that I can see. Understand, however, that I'm in a small minority - a minority who thinks that growth, in-and-of-itself, often does more harm than good. I see the Metro rail running along Route 7 in Tysons Corner, and I about puke - I saw this coming (although not to this extent) when Evans Farm Inn got bought out and turned into a housing development - that was the beginning of the end.

Assuming, of course, you consider the new Tysons Corner "the end." I, for one, do, and I'm fully aware that many, if not most, others, don't.

EvansFarm.pdf

I shouldn't have answered for Al Dente, but it was clear to me that he was talking about *only* the shopping areas, and that's why I chimed in - the truth is that I know *zippo* about Kentlands, other than what I see when I go to restaurants there.

"New Urbanism Pioneer Joe Alfandre Helped Build Communities, and Now Son James Looks to Shake Them Up" by Jackie Hicken on deseretnews.com

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I was talking primarily about the retail areas, but from what I've seen of the houses they look pretty cookie cutter (as do the homes in any number of neighborhoods in the area). I'm sure it's a nice place to live and I'm all for having walk-able communities, but the Kentlands and others have such a forced community feel to them. I dunno, maybe I'm just old.

Here for example. This is what I was referring to when I mentioned The Truman Show and how the buildings look like facades built for a movie set:

LW-kentlands.jpg

Edited to add: I hate those phony non-balconies. Just put a freakin window in.

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Unless you live in Kentlands, the commercial areas are the only places you see. So, to answer your first question: It's ugly, "mall-like," and inorganic - this is pretty depressing.

pras, you're one of our best members, which is why the "everyone is entitled to an opinion" comment is beneath you! If you think I'm flat-out wrong, come right out and say, "Don, you're flat-out wrong!" and tell me why! I do not argue; I discuss things, with my ultimate goal not "to win" the debate, but "to learn" from the conversation. I remain completely open-minded about Kentlands.

I know you must feel strongly about Kentlands, knowing it better than the rest of us do (and yes, that *does* give your opinions more weight, at least in my eyes), but that commercial area really is something of an eyesore (which even you imply) - Joe Alfrandre might have made a great place to live, but as a dining or shopping destination, it could be Merrifield, Columbia Heights, Broadlands, Silver Spring, or any of a dozen other places in the area. The "If you build it, they will come" force is strong here, as opposed to letting a neighborhood grow organically over time. Just my opinion, of course, but you said everyone is entitled to an opinion. :)

Call me old-fashioned - no, call me *ancient* - but I think the "design, build, get paid, and flee" mentality is ruining this country's architectural heritage, which is on shaky ground to begin with. It seems like it all started here with Columbia (1967) and Reston (1964). Is there any single thing in those two communities of architectural significance or beauty, other than perhaps the city-wide blueprint as a historical document? Not that I can see. Understand, however, that I'm in a small minority - a minority who thinks that growth, in-and-of-itself, often does more harm than good. I see the Metro rail running along Route 7 in Tysons Corner, and I about puke - I saw this coming (although not to this extent) when Evans Farm Inn got bought out and turned into a housing development - that was the beginning of the end.

Assuming, of course, you consider the new Tysons Corner "the end." I, for one, do, and I'm fully aware that many, if not most, others, don't.

attachicon.gifEvansFarm.pdf

I shouldn't have answered for Al Dente, but it was clear to me that he was talking about *only* the shopping areas, and that's why I chimed in - the truth is that I know *zippo* about Kentlands, other than what I see when I go to restaurants there.

"New Urbanism Pioneer Joe Alfandre Helped Build Communities, and Now Son James Looks to Shake Them Up" by Jackie Hicken on deseretnews.com

This video is a walking tour with Joe Alfandre as he talks about the process in developing the Kentlands, the planning process, and where it falls short.  When I said "everyone is entitled to their opinion", it wasn't meant as a jab, it was quite the opposite, that I didn't want to hurt anyone's feelings.

This history details what happened and where things derailed.  Essentially Alfandre ran into some hard times and the development was taken over by the lenders.  I also beg to differ regarding cookie cutter houses.  I invite anyone to come and walk the neighborhood with me.  There is such diversity of houses and attention to detail that is apparent if you look.  There is also a sense of pride and community.

I agree that the commercial/retail areas leave a lot to be desired--I don't think you will find a person who will disagree.  I wish I could find a link to it or some information, but I read in the past year that the city of Gaithersburg has changed the zoning to allow for the redevelopment of the commercial areas.  This would allow an increase in density, get rid of the paved parking lots, and finish off the Kentlands the way they were intended.  This is certainly just an idea at this point and may never come about in my lifetime, but you never know.

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I was talking primarily about the retail areas, but from what I've seen of the houses they look pretty cookie cutter (as do the homes in any number of neighborhoods in the area). I'm sure it's a nice place to live and I'm all for having walk-able communities, but the Kentlands and others have such a forced community feel to them. I dunno, maybe I'm just old.

Here for example. This is what I was referring to when I mentioned The Truman Show and how the buildings look like facades built for a movie set:

Edited to add: I hate those phony non-balconies. Just put a freakin window in.

As I was looking at this it struck me that any developer buying a large amount of land and planning to build both commercial and residential, does so long long before the design and layout of the development is developed.  The designs and plans are a time consuming and expensive element in its own right, but time consuming has to be the big constraint when involved in a purchase.  It has to take hundreds or thousands of hours.   So a developer purchases long before a development is layed out.  They do purchase with an understanding of total development allowances:  how much residential and how much commercial square footage.   Any purchase of this type and size in the greater DC region has been relatively expensive at the time.

Once design starts the architects and developers are trying to determine how many homes and how much commercial can be "squeezed" into the site and what kinds of basic prices or rental rates the homes, apartments, and commercial space can capture at that time.

My suspicion is that the repetitive design one sees in a place such as Kentlands and so many other "like" large scale mixed use suburban developments are a function of trying to get as many homes as possible onto the site.  It might well be that the repetitive design of townhomes is a function of this process and maximizes properties on the site while maintaining green spaces, etc.

Just a guess on my part, but as a broker I sold some land for various types of development.  No buyer has the design of the site etched out in stone before the purchase.  The design process proceeds after the purchase and one goal is to maximize development (and hence return).  Then the local jurisdiction reviews the plans....and the developer makes adjustments and/or negotiates based on the plan review.

With so many such developments being somewhat similar to that of Kentlands, my guess is that the townhouse type layouts with the road network and green spaces is the optimal manner to get as much buildout as possible, and still build homes that the market will respond to.

The above is a guess on my part as I'm not an architect or landscape architect....but clearly there is an overall design sameness to many such developments.

But I agree with Pras, above.  I find them attractive to live in, harmonious, conducive to walking and biking.  If you want something far more unique....make money like Trump.

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OK, I'll try to sort this out :)

Kentlands was one of the original "new urbanism" developments.   There have been 100s since, and I'd say that the vast majority have distorted the intent, as DaveO points out.  And Kentlands itself had some compromises, as I'll point out.   But at its heart, it is one of the better attempts in the US at what can be a really great place.

New Urbanism is really best described as anti-Columbia MD.  It seeks to accomplish a number of goals:

  • To group buildings by their scale, not by their use. 
  • To make public spaces for humans, not cars. 
  • To make communities where people can (in theory) live, work, shop and pray without leaving.

To accomplish these goals, architects and developers had to overcome MANY zoning laws that had developed over time.   The kinds of zoning laws that created Columbia MD, where there are no sidewalks and you have to drive for anything outside of your house.

I think new urbanism is best described in this entertaining video.   At the end of it all, new urbanism aims to create places that people love and want to defend.  Big box areas are not that - and Europe created such places over many centuries without zoning laws and such.  The simple argument is that zoning laws and the priority of the car over the human inadvertently created places that aren't enjoyable, and are really anti-social.

So back in the early 80s, architect Andres Duany wanted to design on this vision.  He went to Gaithersburg and gave them the hard sell, which meant not only asking for a development but variances for all kinds of zoning and housing laws - they needed to buy into the vision.  Here's the presentation he gave - I find it fascinating.   And I recall watching him give this to the Gaithersburg council many, many moons ago.  This video is from San Antonio, who declined the offer.   Gaithersburg accepted and set to work getting all the variances and such needed.  

(Side note: As a simple example of the variances needed, Gaithersburg (like pretty much every town) has rules about how curved a curb must be - i.e., how the curb, as it follows a right angle, is curved.  In places like Alexandria, you'll see a very tight curb radius, making the turn very sharp.  On a highway on/off ramp, the curve radius is HUGE, maybe 1/4 mile to make the right angle.  A wide curb radius does two things - it allows a car to go faster around the turn, and it makes a human crossing the street have a longer walk to get to the opposite corner.   It is pro-car, anti-human.   The streets in Kentlands aimed to reduce curb radii, while still allowing emergency vehicles through - making it a better place to walk and slowing traffic down overall.  An existing rule that says "a road with X expected traffic must have at least a Y curb radii" is intended to be "safer" for cars, but the result is a faster intersection, making things more dangerous to walkers.  And such rules are hard to overcome and not worth it for most developers.)

As mentioned above, financing became an issue at one point - and a chunk of the property was cut loose for retail.   That's the area from Lowe's to Not Your Average Joe's and Brasserie Beck.   To the chagrin of the builders, it went "traditional" with giant parking lots and a strip mall look.  But the shops in the true Kentlands area are more like the picture above.   That particular picture shows part of the little Kentlands square (triangle, really) where in the summer they offer concerts on the lawn - which is very community building.  Part of the science going on it that picture - the buildings are multi-use (so the shop owner could live above the store), the cars are welcome but slowly and people get priority to walk in front of the stores, and the store fronts are lined up and in a room-like area (the triangle) which is the kind of place people like to be.

Back in the Kentlands neighborhood, houses have alleys for services (trash, mail, etc),  Along the houses, lots were given to builders 'randomly' so there would be different styles, and in fact the same design could not be built within site of another like it.  The roads have "terminating vistas" where the fancier houses are put such that people drive to them, making them very visible.  And the houses have allowances for apartments, such as over the garage - for nannies or grandparents (which addresses a lower-income housing issue.)

The result is generally higher density - while making places people want to be.   And that's easily shown by the property values.   Not everyone likes to live close to others, but living in a great place makes it a positive, not a negative.

The second big concession was next door, in Lakelands which was built 10 years later.   There's no line between Lakelands and Kentlands; and by the time the developers got to Lakelands they began cutting all the corners we so in so many BAD 'new urbanist' communities since then.   The houses have repeating designs; the cars are given more primacy, the density is higher and there's less mixed-use buildings.   It's not much better than any other community.

So the real Kentlands is surrounded by the compromised retail and by the compromised Lakelands area.

It is great at its core but insulated such that a visitor would never know.  And most visitors have, by now, seen the more recent bad versions of "neo traditional neighborhoods" and are rightfully skeptical.  It is better than that.

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I was talking primarily about the retail areas, but from what I've seen of the houses they look pretty cookie cutter (as do the homes in any number of neighborhoods in the area). I'm sure it's a nice place to live and I'm all for having walk-able communities, but the Kentlands and others have such a forced community feel to them. I dunno, maybe I'm just old.

Here for example. This is what I was referring to when I mentioned The Truman Show and how the buildings look like facades built for a movie set:

Edited to add: I hate those phony non-balconies. Just put a freakin window in.

Two points:

1. The "movie set" feeling is, I believe, an artifact of the idea that there has been SOOO little new construction that looks like this - like a "main street" - in the last 100 years.  Annapolis, Alexandria, parts of DC - they're older and have this look.   So a new version must be fake - because, it isn't a mall or a big box store.   It doesn't feel real.  I get it, but within a few days of being there it becomes very nice :)

2. Those aren't fake balconies.  They are floor-to-ceiling windows (doors, really) that merely have an iron railing across so the people don't fall out.  The owner could sit there on a nice Saturday morning and enjoy breakfast looking out over the farmer's market, and get a nice breeze and a view.  Something not as possible with the regular windows in the other units.   Kentlands doesn't have much of that fake stuff - if you see dormers on the roof, there's generally living space behind them.

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I agree that the commercial/retail areas leave a lot to be desired--I don't think you will find a person who will disagree.  I wish I could find a link to it or some information, but I read in the past year that the city of Gaithersburg has changed the zoning to allow for the redevelopment of the commercial areas.  This would allow an increase in density, get rid of the paved parking lots, and finish off the Kentlands the way they were intended.  This is certainly just an idea at this point and may never come about in my lifetime, but you never know.

Yes, I believe they finally approved the Kentlands master plan, which allows for the buildout of the "Kentlands side" of the retail area - the rectangle from Whole Foods to Buca de Beppo.   Right now, that area is all one-story shops, and it isn't really supposed to be that way.

Part of a true new-urbanist design is to allow growth where growth wants to go into already-created areas.   NYC wouldn't be NYC if they limited building heights to 1 floor.   I believe Gaithersburg made a mistake in letting Crown go vs. unleashing Kentlands first, but in time they will likely both grow.  The next step for Kentlands is to have the Whole Foods to Buca area expand to 4 to 5 stories, a la Rockville Town center.   That will make the retail more viable and continue to attract new folks.  Probably the biggest hurdle is that whole strip is owned by one developer who may not have the resources to pull off an upward expansion.  One could argue that a basic rule of new urbanism is that small lots are individually owned so they develop and grow independently - such that even if I don't have money to expand my building, your neighboring expansion floats my boat.  Right now Kentlands, at least that chunk, is locked up pretty tightly.

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OK, I'll try to sort this out :)

Kentlands was one of the original "new urbanism" developments.   There have been 100s since, and I'd say that the vast majority have distorted the intent, as DaveO points out.  And Kentlands itself had some compromises, as I'll point out.   But at its heart, it is one of the better attempts in the US at what can be a really great place.

New Urbanism is really best described as anti-Columbia MD.  It seeks to accomplish a number of goals:

  • To group buildings by their scale, not by their use. 
  • To make public spaces for humans, not cars. 
  • To make communities where people can (in theory) live, work, shop and pray without leaving.

To accomplish these goals, architects and developers had to overcome MANY zoning laws that had developed over time.   The kinds of zoning laws that created Columbia MD, where there are no sidewalks and you have to drive for anything outside of your house.

I think new urbanism is best described in this entertaining video.   At the end of it all, new urbanism aims to create places that people love and want to defend.  Big box areas are not that - and Europe created such places over many centuries without zoning laws and such.  The simple argument is that zoning laws and the priority of the car over the human inadvertently created places that aren't enjoyable, and are really anti-social.

So back in the early 80s, architect Andres Duany wanted to design on this vision.  He went to Gaithersburg and gave them the hard sell, which meant not only asking for a development but variances for all kinds of zoning and housing laws - they needed to buy into the vision.  Here's the presentation he gave - I find it fascinating.   And I recall watching him give this to the Gaithersburg council many, many moons ago.  This video is from San Antonio, who declined the offer.   Gaithersburg accepted and set to work getting all the variances and such needed.  

(Side note: As a simple example of the variances needed, Gaithersburg (like pretty much every town) has rules about how curved a curb must be - i.e., how the curb, as it follows a right angle, is curved.  In places like Alexandria, you'll see a very tight curb radius, making the turn very sharp.  On a highway on/off ramp, the curve radius is HUGE, maybe 1/4 mile to make the right angle.  A wide curb radius does two things - it allows a car to go faster around the turn, and it makes a human crossing the street have a longer walk to get to the opposite corner.   It is pro-car, anti-human.   The streets in Kentlands aimed to reduce curb radii, while still allowing emergency vehicles through - making it a better place to walk and slowing traffic down overall.  An existing rule that says "a road with X expected traffic must have at least a Y curb radii" is intended to be "safer" for cars, but the result is a faster intersection, making things more dangerous to walkers.  And such rules are hard to overcome and not worth it for most developers.)

As mentioned above, financing became an issue at one point - and a chunk of the property was cut loose for retail.   That's the area from Lowe's to Not Your Average Joe's and Brasserie Beck.   To the chagrin of the builders, it went "traditional" with giant parking lots and a strip mall look.  But the shops in the true Kentlands area are more like the picture above.   That particular picture shows part of the little Kentlands square (triangle, really) where in the summer they offer concerts on the lawn - which is very community building.  Part of the science going on it that picture - the buildings are multi-use (so the shop owner could live above the store), the cars are welcome but slowly and people get priority to walk in front of the stores, and the store fronts are lined up and in a room-like area (the triangle) which is the kind of place people like to be.

Back in the Kentlands neighborhood, houses have alleys for services (trash, mail, etc),  Along the houses, lots were given to builders 'randomly' so there would be different styles, and in fact the same design could not be built within site of another like it.  The roads have "terminating vistas" where the fancier houses are put such that people drive to them, making them very visible.  And the houses have allowances for apartments, such as over the garage - for nannies or grandparents (which addresses a lower-income housing issue.)

The result is generally higher density - while making places people want to be.   And that's easily shown by the property values.   Not everyone likes to live close to others, but living in a great place makes it a positive, not a negative.

The second big concession was next door, in Lakelands which was built 10 years later.   There's no line between Lakelands and Kentlands; and by the time the developers got to Lakelands they began cutting all the corners we so in so many BAD 'new urbanist' communities since then.   The houses have repeating designs; the cars are given more primacy, the density is higher and there's less mixed-use buildings.   It's not much better than any other community.

So the real Kentlands is surrounded by the compromised retail and by the compromised Lakelands area.

It is great at its core but insulated such that a visitor would never know.  And most visitors have, by now, seen the more recent bad versions of "neo traditional neighborhoods" and are rightfully skeptical.  It is better than that.

Thanks for the points above.  I "studied" the developments of Columbia and Reston when they first went up....but have not kept up the subsequent efforts and adjustments.  I look forward to watching the two videos.

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Unless you live in Kentlands, the commercial areas are the only places you see. So, to answer your first question: It's ugly, "mall-like," and inorganic - this is pretty depressing.

pras, you're one of our best members, which is why the "everyone is entitled to an opinion" comment is beneath you! If you think I'm flat-out wrong, come right out and say, "Don, you're flat-out wrong!" and tell me why! I do not argue; I discuss things, with my ultimate goal not "to win" the debate, but "to learn" from the conversation. I remain completely open-minded about Kentlands.

I know you must feel strongly about Kentlands, knowing it better than the rest of us do (and yes, that *does* give your opinions more weight, at least in my eyes), but that commercial area really is something of an eyesore (which even you imply) - Joe Alfrandre might have made a great place to live, but as a dining or shopping destination, it could be Merrifield, Columbia Heights, Broadlands, Silver Spring, or any of a dozen other places in the area. The "If you build it, they will come" force is strong here, as opposed to letting a neighborhood grow organically over time. Just my opinion, of course, but you said everyone is entitled to an opinion. :)

Call me old-fashioned - no, call me *ancient* - but I think the "design, build, get paid, and flee" mentality is ruining this country's architectural heritage, which is on shaky ground to begin with. It seems like it all started here with Columbia (1967) and Reston (1964). Is there any single thing in those two communities of architectural significance or beauty, other than perhaps the city-wide blueprint as a historical document? Not that I can see. Understand, however, that I'm in a small minority - a minority who thinks that growth, in-and-of-itself, often does more harm than good. I see the Metro rail running along Route 7 in Tysons Corner, and I about puke - I saw this coming (although not to this extent) when Evans Farm Inn got bought out and turned into a housing development - that was the beginning of the end.

Assuming, of course, you consider the new Tysons Corner "the end." I, for one, do, and I'm fully aware that many, if not most, others, don't.

attachicon.gifEvansFarm.pdf

I shouldn't have answered for Al Dente, but it was clear to me that he was talking about *only* the shopping areas, and that's why I chimed in - the truth is that I know *zippo* about Kentlands, other than what I see when I go to restaurants there.

"New Urbanism Pioneer Joe Alfandre Helped Build Communities, and Now Son James Looks to Shake Them Up" by Jackie Hicken on deseretnews.com

You are right that if people are left to their own devices, they could build a great neighborhood.  No one designed Venice, or London.  No one built all of Alexandria or Annapolis in one swoop.   Sadly, the world doesn't work that way anymore and developments are how housing gets done these days.

Evans Farm is a good example of the worst of this.   The houses are beautiful as are the common areas.   But - there's no store to walk to?  No shopping?  No school or church?   It is a bedroom community, just like so many others.   It looks like people have little if any reason to come out of their houses and form a community.   I imagine they are ok with that - that the neighbors are just extras in the occasional play they put on at their house for invited guests.  

New urbanism says that neighborhoods should not be walled - Chinatown doesn't have an "exit".   They should be thriving places where people not only want to be, but where they can add and make them better over time.

Evans Farm is not that.   Nice houses, but not the ideal.

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Thanks for the points above.  I "studied" the developments of Columbia and Reston when they first went up....but have not kept up the subsequent efforts and adjustments.  I look forward to watching the two videos.

It is literally the opposite approach to planning and development.  I'm in Columbia now and driving around here just makes me insane :)

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The result is generally higher density - while making places people want to be.   And that's easily shown by the property values.   Not everyone likes to live close to others, but living in a great place makes it a positive, not a negative.

The second big concession was next door, in Lakelands which was built 10 years later.   There's no line between Lakelands and Kentlands; and by the time the developers got to Lakelands they began cutting all the corners we so in so many BAD 'new urbanist' communities since then.   The houses have repeating designs; the cars are given more primacy, the density is higher and there's less mixed-use buildings.   It's not much better than any other community.

So the real Kentlands is surrounded by the compromised retail and by the compromised Lakelands area.

It is great at its core but insulated such that a visitor would never know.  And most visitors have, by now, seen the more recent bad versions of "neo traditional neighborhoods" and are rightfully skeptical.  It is better than that.

While I generally agree with everything you wrote, I think you are a bit harsh on the Lakelands (and I am certainly biased).  It still has the vibe that Kenlands has in the residential neighborhood and encourages people to get out of their houses and ditch their cars on the weekends.  The houses are diverse if you look a little deeper, although not as diverse in the Kentlands, and architectural controls were loosened (you can have an asphalt roof and vinyl/aluminium siding in the Lakelands), but does have housing diversity and variety (we visiting probably 9 totally different model of townhouse during our search), with singles/townhouses/condos/rental apartments mixed throughout.  Their is certainly a great pride of ownership in the Lakelands (drive around during Halloween and Christmas to see all of the decorations).  The HOA provides a great variety of activities for people of all ages.  Their has even been recent attempts to try and unify the Kentlands and Lakelands through shared activities, swimming pool reciprocity, etc.  All in all, both are great neighborhoods which provide a high quality of life.  I believe one of the main commercial owners is currently trying to sell their entire portfolio.  Perhaps the next owner can complete Alfandre's vision and make it a truly remarkable neighborhood.

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On 2/29/2016 at 5:07 PM, pras said:

While I generally agree with everything you wrote, I think you are a bit harsh on the Lakelands (and I am certainly biased). It still has the vibe that Kenlands has in the residential neighborhood and encourages people to get out of their houses and ditch their cars on the weekends. The houses are diverse if you look a little deeper, although not as diverse in the Kentlands, and architectural controls were loosened (you can have an asphalt roof and vinyl/aluminium siding in the Lakelands), but does have housing diversity and variety (we visiting probably 9 totally different model of townhouse during our search), with singles/townhouses/condos/rental apartments mixed throughout. Their is certainly a great pride of ownership in the Lakelands (drive around during Halloween and Christmas to see all of the decorations). The HOA provides a great variety of activities for people of all ages. Their has even been recent attempts to try and unify the Kentlands and Lakelands through shared activities, swimming pool reciprocity, etc. All in all, both are great neighborhoods which provide a high quality of life. I believe one of the main commercial owners is currently trying to sell their entire portfolio. Perhaps the next owner can complete Alfandre's vision and make it a truly remarkable neighborhood.

Yeah, Im a bit unfair, like ragging on a neighborhood that scores a 9/10 because it is next door to a 9.5/10 one. I owned in Lakelands for a while and enjoyed it very much.

On 2/22/2016 at 3:26 PM, bookluvingbabe said:

Isn't it actual Truman Show-like architecture? Didn't the same firm design the Kentlands that did Seaside (Truman Show setting)?

Interestingly, the building architecture is somewhat different, one being more of a Cape Cod / Caymans cottage look, the other being more colonial. What's the same is the layout and design principles of the neighborhood.

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Dog Haus Biergarten (pras)

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