Neighborhood profile: Lakelands, a neotraditional sequel in Maryland


Traditional row houses in a Colonial style are among the housing types found in Lakelands, a neotraditional development modeled on the neighboring Kentlands in Montgomery County. (Amy Reinink/For The Washington Post)
December 13, 2013

When developers created Kentlands in Gaithersburg in the late 1980s, architects and city planners hailed it as the archetype of neotraditional development. Urban-planning researchers studied it. Magazines and newspapers profiled it. Home buyers lined up to buy into it.

When its sister community, Lakelands, was developed on the other side of Inspiration Lane a decade later, “we kind of just piggybacked on what the Kentlands had already done,” said Linda Wiesman, a recently retired certified public accountant who is president of Lakelands Community Association.

Despite Lakelands’ lower profile, Wiesman said, the community offers all the charms — and all the resources and amenities — of its more famous neighbor.

“We share the Main Street shopping center, the walking paths, the lakes and all the other natural amenities,” Wiesman said. “We’re so much alike, we joke that Lakelands is ‘Kentlands Phase 2.’ ”

Fifteen years after its founding, Lakelands, like its neighbor, remains as walkable and community-oriented as its founders intended, Wiesman said.


Designed to connect people: With its narrow streets, abundant sidewalks and houses built close to the street, Lakelands was designed to enable residents to ditch their cars, and to encourage them to meet one another.

Grocery stores and a weekly farmers market lie a short walk away.

The many young families in the neighborhood can walk to seven “tot lots,” or small playgrounds, throughout Lakelands, in addition to the larger, county-owned Lakelands Park, Wiesman said.

The clubhouse located in the center of the community has multiple swimming pools, tennis courts, a basketball court and party rooms that residents can rent out.

I’ll be out in front of my townhouse, gardening, and I’ll end up chatting with people out walking downtown,” Wiesman said.

Wiesman said that’s one of the main features that attracted her to the neighborhood when she bought her townhouse there 15 years ago.

“As a single woman, I really liked the neighborhood feel, and the sense that people really get to know their neighbors,” Wiesman said. “Many people move here because they’re interested in that sense of community.”

Growing diversity: Wiesman said Lakelands is becoming more multicultural.

“I seem to meet more people who have an international background, or who come from different countries, than when I first moved in,” Wiesman said. “There are a lot of Indian folks and some Middle Eastern folks. My neighbors are from England. It’s really becoming a diverse group.”

Wiesman said a variety of age groups are represented there, too, with residents spanning almost every generation.

Wiesman said she’s one of many retirees to take classes through the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at Johns Hopkins University’s Rockville campus, a couple of miles from Lakelands.

“You meet a lot of people your age who live nearby and who are intellectually curious,” Wiesman said. “I know several people in Lakelands who attend.”

Happy hours, movie nights: Residents also get to know one another at gatherings sponsored by the neighborhood’s social committee, which plans events such as pool parties and movie nights in the summer, a harvest festival in the fall and frequent happy-hour gatherings at the clubhouse for adults, Wiesman said.

Lakelands’ committees are also charged with solving problems that arise in the community.

For example, when a group of residents complained that they wanted to swim laps when neighborhood’s swim team, the Lakelands Lionfish, was practicing, the pool and swim-team committees worked with those residents to reach an agreement. In the end, practice was shortened a bit, and lifeguards were hired for early-morning hours to offer more lap-swimming time, Wiesman said.

“I know a lot of HOAs that like to manage everything between the board and the management company,” Wiesman said. “We’re a little different.”

Living there: Lakelands is roughly bordered by Main Street to the north; Muddy Branch to the east; Main, Bright Meadow and Pheasant streets to the south; and Inspiration Lane to the west.

Meredith Fogle, an agent with Re/Max who has lived in Kentlands since 1998, said Lakelands’ roughly 1,400 homes offer a variety of housing types, from apartments to single-family houses, in a variety of architectural styles.

One-bedroom apartments in Lakelands rent for an average of $1,500 a month, Fogle said.

Seventy-three properties sold in the past 12 months, from $355,000 for a two-bedroom condo to $1 million for a four-bedroom house, according to Fogle. Two properties are on the market now, from $524,900 for a three-bedroom townhouse to $779,000 for a four-bedroom house.

She said a third of the sales in Lakelands and Kentlands come from within the communities — apartment dwellers looking to buy a place, for example, or families living in condos looking for more space.

Fogle said buyers who target Lakelands rather than Kentlands are often wooed by the relatively lower prices and newer homes. She said prices are often a bit lower in Lakelands because builders in Kentlands were required to use all-natural building materials, such as cedar-shake roofs and copper drains; Lakelands builders were allowed to use synthetic materials.

Not everything that planners intended came to fruition in Lakelands.

The community’s narrow streets may have encouraged neighbors to interact, but they have made parking difficult in some spots, Wiesman said.

But otherwise, Wiesman said, “most everything has worked.”

“That’s because the people who wanted to live here didn’t care about things like spacious yards,” Wiesman said. “They’re here for the community.”

Schools: Rachel Carson Elementary, Lakelands Park Middle and Quince Orchard High.

Crime: Officer Dan Lane, a Gaithersburg police spokesman, said Lakelands and the neighborhoods surrounding it are “very low on crime,” with a “very low number of residential burglaries.” He said the most common offense in the area is theft from vehicles.

Transportation: A Metrobus line runs to the Shady Grove Metro station.

Amy Reinink is a freelance writer.

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