Gaithersburg is a town of just 65,000, more than 25 miles from the White House, and next year celebrates its 250th birthday. But for at least 20 years, it’s been a pioneer in creating walkable neighborhoods with an urban feel—like Kentlands, Lakelands and Rio. Now comes a new one with a special sauce.
And we mean special sauce literally—lots of new restaurants, lining the street. Enough that they hope you’ll see the area as an outer ‘burb Bethesda Row. It’s called Crown, and we got a tour Friday from Bobby Zeiller, right, EVP of master developer Westbrook Properties, and Gary Kressler and Jeff Rodgers of JBGR, which owns and runs the 260k SF retail component. Coastal Flats behind them symbolizes the fun food offerings—Bobby swears by their shrimp and grits.
Crown Farm, which dates from the 1870s, sold 182 acres in ‘06 to Centex and KB, whose venture went into bankruptcy in the recession. It was bought by NY-based Westbrook, which sold the retail of “Downtown Crown” to JBGR and residential to Bozzuto. 100 acres are in development both there and in Crown West, with Crown East and Central to come. Eventually there will be up to 2,250 residential units and more retail. The retail seeks not just folks from the neighborhood, but who drive in from a 20-minute radius: Olney, North Potomac, Darnestown, Rockville, Germantown. Or from the Intercounty Connector, Great Seneca Science Corridor, or campuses of Johns Hopkins, MedImmune, Adventist Hospital and NCI. Crown, Bobby says, was the hole in the donut.
Most of the food has arrived: a dozen casual to fine dining eateries that in good weekend weather are packed inside and out. Here’s Paladar Latin fusion, with a bar facing the sidewalk. It just opened, along with Ruth’s Chris, Asia Nine and La Madeleine. Venti Tre, Smashburger and Chop’t have been open a couple months; Old Town Pour House, &pizza, Ted’s Bulletin, Ted’s Montana Grill are coming (hear about it at the next Ted Talk); and Starbucks has staked its claim at the start. Most are new to Montgomery County. If you want to make your own food, there’s a Harris Teeter, if you want to work it off there’s an LA Fitness, and if you want to look good afterwards there’s an HBF fashion boutique. 40k SF of retail remains available.
Bozzuto opened up 538 apartments at Cadence early this year, featuring this upscale lobby…
…beautifully appointed community spaces…
...and even a Millennial sense of humor.
Pulte, KB Home and M/I Homes are building townhomes, and Wormald is building single-family in Crown West. Ryland Homes is doing “two-over-two” stacked condos in Downtown Crown and soon will introduce a new townhome product. An amenity center has started construction, with a 27-foot climbing wall, pools and hard-surface tennis courts. Crown plans to host book fairs, movie nights, outdoor concerts, and (consistent with the food emphasis) farmer’s markets and “taste of Crown” expos. It will also be integrating a number of park spaces, including ones called "French-style linear" and "meditative." (Carousels in a French-style park have twice as many revolutions.)
Streets are named after famous innovators, musicians, scientists and writers, giving intersections a bit hipper names than Elm and Main.