Market Square is a retail prototype
ROBERT STEUTEVILLE    NOV. 1, 1999
Market Square in Gaithersburg, Maryland, is probably the most significant new urbanist retail development to open in 1999. Market Square is a new downtown shared by Kentlands and Lakelands, adjacent traditional neighborhood developments (TNDs) designed by Duany Plater-Zyberk & Co. Market Square demonstrates that good urban design and connectivity can create a good place, despite lackluster architecture. “Market Square works great socially – architecturally it is poor,” comments Mike Watkins, town architect and resident of Kentlands. single story buildings Watkins is critical of the mostly one-story, single-use, retail buildings, but he contends Market Square is successful in significant ways. “People hang out there all of the time. In terms of its program, and what it offers Kentlands, Market Square is great.” For example, The Wine Harvest, a wine and cheese shop with a wine bar, has become Kentlands’ “third place,” says Watkins. The Seattle’s Best coffee shop is a sought-after workplace for teenagers – where they can meet their friends on the job. Senior citizen residents of Kentlands’ nearby assisted living facility also go to Seattle’s Best, which makes the cafe a cross-generational hangout. The Moby Dick Restaurant and Kentlands Stadium 8 movie theaters also are popular spots for residents. A nonprofit group soon will open an outdoor skating rink, to be converted to miniature golf in the summer. Market Square doesn’t have the design flair of some new urbanist commercial projects like Mizner Park, Seaside’s town center, Celebration’s downtown, Mashpee Commons, or Haile Village Center. On the other hand, The Beatty Company, the shopping center developer which built Market Square, didn’t have to radically change its approach. And Market Square offers a pedestrian-oriented environment and a serviceable center where residents can congregate, meet neighbors, have dinner, see a movie, and run some day-to-day errands. block and street pattern Perhaps most importantly, Market Square is built on a block and street pattern that is well connected to the rest of Kentlands and Lakelands (see plan on page 1). A mix of uses, including hundreds of apartments, are located nearby, even if most of the large buildings do not mix uses. Also, the town center plan includes about 50 live/work units, where residents will live above shops. When they are complete, the live/work units are likely to give parts of the downtown a more authentic main street look. Market Square has a number of sizable retail stores, including a 35,000 square foot supermarket (not yet open), a 23,000 square foot health club, a 24,000 square foot multiplex theater, and clothing, pet, and hobby stores. In effect, these businesses amount to a series of anchors in the 250,000 square foot complex. Most of Market Square’s large establishments (with the exception of the theater) front parking lots in the center of blocks. The quality pedestrian environment is maintained by smaller retail stores and live/work units that are built to the sidewalk on the street network behind the big boxes. In effect, Market Square maintains a “A” and “B” hierarchy for streets. The A, or prime pedestrian, streets include all the interior streets. The B streets are the parking lots and Kentlands Boulevard, the heavily traveled thoroughfare that borders one side of Market Square. Pedestrian connections between the parking lots and the street network are designed so anchor stores will lend their customers to the smaller shops – just as in conventional shopping centers. Kentlands also has a conventional, preexisting 350,000 square foot shopping center across Kentlands Boulevard from Market Square. It includes big box stores, smaller shops, and a gas station. Despite its “placeless” design, many Kentlands residents walk to this shopping center, and use it on a regular basis. However, the design precludes it from fulfilling the civic role of a town center. shopping as entertainment Market Square, which does serve that civic role, is built on the premise that people shop not only because they need specific items, but also because shopping has become a form of entertainment and recreation, says John Beatty of the Beatty Company. “We have created a pleasant environment away from the hustle and bustle,” he says. The Beatty Company set design guidelines for Market Square that made every store front different, Beatty says. While this move limited tenants’ freedom to shape the street profile of their stores, Beatty notes that it also provided store owners with built-in individuality.