Gaithersburg Mayor and Council Discuss Master Plan for Lakeforest Mall Site

by Daniel Garay

Last night (December 14th), the City of Gaithersburg Mayor and City Council held a joint work session with the Gaithersburg Planning commission to discuss findings from the Lakeforest Mall Master Plan engagement efforts.

On August 10th, the Mayor and City Council put into motion an amendment process for the Lakeforest Mall Master Plan, which would consider input from extensive public engagement to then produce a new design plan for the Lakeforest site that establishes an overall vision for the future development.

The public engagement strategy yielded 3,463 respondents to an online survey, with 739 paper surveys received.  This put the response rate for City of Gaithersburg residents at 10.4%.

In a presentation given to the Mayor and council, Gaithersburg Long Range Planning Manager Rob Robinson stated that the findings of the public engagement efforts have shown that there is a majority consensus that the Lakeforest site’s redevelopment should be mixed use. The Planning Department estimates that there will be 20,000 new City of Gaithersburg residents by 2045, which each bring demand for increased housing, jobs, and mixed use needs.

Robinson additionally noted that the Lakeforest site should be a “destination” that would generate a special “sense of place” that appeals to a diverse set of people from a wide array of communities. Walkability and inclusion of green spaces also was important to the public, according to the Planning Department.

Ultimately, the Planning Department has recommended a master plan amendment that address three main facets: support area housing needs, create jobs across several career levels, and create economic activity. The Planning Department emphasized the need to go beyond standard mixed use playbooks for the Lakeforest site. Usually, people think of a combination of residential and retail sites when they hear the phrase “mixed-use”. Planning Dept. staff has suggested considering other mixed use options, including R&D, community & civic uses, light manufacturing, etc. It will be interesting to see how much of these types of spaces will be included in the eventual redevelopment of the site. Eventually, the Planning Department recommends the replacement of much of the surface parking lot space with more inventive uses.

In terms of next steps, the composition of the Master Plan will get going in earnest following this Joint Work Session, with a draft of the Master Plan set to be generated in spring of 2021, with eventual adoption and approval of the plan tentatively set for summer of 2021.




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