The "Luxury" of Location? : LUSENET : Kentlands : One Thread

The cover story in the "Apartment Living" section of last Saturday's (July 28) Washington Post might be of interest to anyone who is following, or actively participating in, the debate about the latest proposal for development of the former Upton's site (see the thread, "Developers propose 350-400 Apartments on Upton's Site"). The article, entitled "The Luxury of Convenience," is about Cedar Court, which is a new "luxury" apartment complex in Olde Towne Gaithersburg. According to the article, the definition of luxury at Cedar Court "differs . . . from that of many other buildings."

Something that figures heavily in this "different" definition of "luxury" in an apartment complex is convenience of location. But, unless I missed something, convenience of location is fundamental to the New Urbanism: something that is considered BASIC to creating healthy habitats for humans. How does it end up being pushed as a "luxury" in an apartment complex located in Gaithersburg, a city at the forefront of the New Urbanist movement? The irony should not escape us.

I also found this characterization of small-town living in the above-mentioned article interesting: "An added bonus is Olde Towne's charm, [a resident] said. The fact that the grocery store makes sure it never runs out of root beer ice pops makes her feel as though she were living in a small town." I am sorry, but give me a break. How warped will the small-town concept become before consumers say, "enough"?

We need to stay focused on what it is about the New Urbanism that holds such promise from the viewpoint of creating healthier environments for society. Because it's really not about those warm, fuzzy, memories we all have, or think we have, about the way things used to be, is it? I may be out on a limb here, but I believe that the New Urbanism is about the future, not the past.

Somewhere along the line, it seems, the message became garbled with mythical visions of days gone by: visions that still enter our homes in shows such as "Happy Days," "Leave it to Beaver," "Father Knows Best," and "Mayberry RFD," to mention just some. I believe that this garbling poses a serious challenge to the integrity, and credibility, of the New Urbanist movement. But that is just my opinion.

-- Mary N. Macdonald (, July 30, 2001



I completely agree with you.

A few notes to ponder. The Apartment Living section is more of an advertising insert in my opinion than objective reporting. See all the ads in there.

When an apartment complex is approached about being on the cover of Apartment Living the Post typically asks the management company of the complex to get residents who would be willing to talk to them (The Post).

If I am the manager of that complex I am probably going to get the residents who I am sure are going to say the rosiest things possible about the complex and the neighborhood for obvious reasons. One reason is I don't want the president of the management company calling me complaining about was written.

The process to get on the cover is quite competitive amongst management companies. They benefit from increased prospect visits and rentals as a result. Free advertising. They are also more likely to continue advertising in the section.

I have read the apartment living insert cover article every weekend for the past several years, since its inception, and I rarely see any negative comments from residents.

For these reasons I do not really consider the article or the Apartment Living section objective reporting. I consider it an advertising insert. More fluff than anything else.

On the other hand, The "Real Estate" section of The Post often has objective and well written articles about concepts like "New Urbanism". I believe that if you approached them about this idea they would probably cover it more in depth in the "Real Estate" section. I believe they may have already done an article in the past couple of years on New Urbanism.

Best regards

-- Austin Decker (, July 31, 2001.

Austin, I am well aware that the "Apartment Living" section of the Washington Post is promotional in nature, and I suspect that anyone familiar with the issues under discussion will be, as well. If the point I am trying to make is lost in diplomacy, it will be interesting to hear other people's opinions, nonetheless.

-- Mary N. Macdonald (, August 01, 2001.


I am not sure I understand what you mean by your point being lost in diplomacy.

I agree with the points you made.

The message has become garbled for reasons that are beyond your or my control is the point I was making.

1) Advertisers do what they want. 2) Writers for the Apartment Living Section, other reporters, and people who move into the neighborhood and are not familiar with the New Urbanist Movement perpetuate the garbling.

Best regards

-- Austin Decker (, August 01, 2001.

I hear what you are saying, Austin. Only, I would lay much of the responsibility for the message being garbled at the feet of those in the industry who, rather than selling consumers on the new urbanism, use "new urbanism" to sell product. When this is the case, the message often becomes distorted, and the product may or may not be the real thing.

On the other hand, I should also say that for those in the industry who are committed to building the kinds of physical environments that will ideally promote the development of a healthier society (one with a stronger sense of larger community than is currently the case), some aspects of the new urbanism may be a hard sell. In particular, the concept of vertical integration does not seem to go over well with many affluent homeowners--unless, of course, the integration is upwards from where they are on the socioeconomic ladder.

Yes, I realize that the last comment above may offend some people. But I am offended by the idea that the new urbanism should be only for the affluent. I am offended by the notion that the affluent residents of a new urbanist community should be able to walk to their workplaces, but that less affluent people who work in these same communities should live elsewhere and have the extra expense (in both time and money) of commuting to work. It seems to me that this defeats a main purpose of new urbanism.

For anyone who is interested, there is an excellent and eminently understandable (and lively) book on the subject by Andres Duany, Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk and Jeff Speck. The reference is, Suburban Nation: the Rise of Sprawl and the Decline of the American Dream. New York, North Point Press, 2000. Another eye-opening book--this one on the way it really was "back then"-- is Stephanie Coontz' The Way We Never Were: American Families and the Nostalgia Trap. New York, Basic Books, 1992. (Coontz is a family historian.)

-- Mary N. Macdonald (, August 02, 2001.


I could not agree with you more. I think we were making the same point in a different way. We probably have different communication styles.

I will check out the book you mention so I can become more enlightened on this issue; so I don't contribute to the garbling.

Best regards

-- Austin Decker (, August 02, 2001.


I purchased the "Suburban Nation" book and have ordered the other book you suggested. For those interested the Barnes & Noble at Washingtonian Center (Rio) keeps "Suburban Nation" in stock at a cost of $18.00. The other book is $16.50 and they can order and deliver it within one week.

-- Austin Decker (, August 05, 2001.

I have spent the better part of today (Sunday) reading "Suburban Nation" and have to say that it was time well spent. The book is effective at articulating many of the issues that I have known intuitively since I was child. I hope that all citizens, elected officials, appointed planners, government officials, architects, real estate developers get the opportunity to read it whether they agree with its findings or not.

Best regards

-- Austin Decker (, August 05, 2001.


FYI -- The Washington Post Magazine makes an attempt to objectively describe the new urbanist concept in tomorrow's magazine (8/26/01). I find the article objective. Much of the article, including comments from Alfandre, pans the details of Kentlands and Lakelands as they relate to new urbanism. However, there are some positive comments about the residential portion of the community.

Best regards

-- Austin Decker (, August 25, 2001.

Thanks for pointing this article out, Austin. I thought it was very interesting and enjoyed reading it, although there was a glaring omission that, in my mind, at least, made the issue of objectivity moot. I do not think that an accurate picture of the details of Kentlands as they relate to new urbanism can be drawn, without including Midtown with its live/work units in the discussion. Yet, the article failed to mention this key element of our community.

I also question the article's characterization of Market Square as a feature of Lakelands "meant to improve upon Kentlands." That is not at all the way I recall the planning of that area having occurred, nor have I ever thought of Market Square as being of Lakelands, as opposed to Kentlands. I have always thought of Market Square as being of both communities, although it is arguably primarily in Kentlands and was fought for by Kentlands residents, who for years fought strenuously for a "Main Street" commercial area (Midtown/Market Square) and against the development of more standard shopping mall configurations.

The movie theater in Market Square is called "Kentlands Stadium 8." A Beatty Management Co. sign advertises for leasing in "Kentlands Market Square." The "Ha Ku Ba," a Japanese restaurant in Market Square, was characterized in a review in this month's Washingtonian magazine as being located "in the heart of Kentlands." (The review, by the way, was very favorable). All of which makes me wonder all the more if the article got the facts right on the critical issue of how Market Square evolved and where it is located.

Can anyone shed any light on this? Or does anyone just want to express an opinion? For more context, the following is from the article in question:

"Designed by Duany and Plater-Zyberk, it [Lakelands] has features meant to improve upon Kentlands. One of the most obvious is Market Square, a street of stores and restaurants with an art deco-style movie theater and diner that would look right at home in Greenbelt. Unlike the shopping center in Kentlands, it resembles a commercial street in a small town--albeit one with a gift shop, a gourmet coffee bar and a day spa."

-- Mary N. Macdonald (, September 08, 2001.

Moderation questions? read the FAQ