Credit: Scott Layton

Gaithersburg’s Kentlands neighborhood is a 352-acre planned community that is bounded on the northeast by Great Seneca Highway, on the southwest by Darnestown Road, on the northwest by Quince Orchard Road, and on the southeast by Inspiration Lane. The ZIP code is 20878.


Kentlands is significant, as it was the first non-resort community in the country built in what would become a wave of late-20th-century American developments designed with neo-traditional town planning practices—also called New Urbanism. In 1988, local developer Joseph Alfandre Jr. purchased a large portion of the Otis Beall Kent farm. To create an alternative to the county’s typical postwar suburban enclaves, Alfandre enlisted the team of architects and planners responsible for the famed Seaside, Florida, community. New Urbanist design principles emphasize walkable, high-density mixed-used towns with sidewalks, narrow streets, garages in alleys behind the houses, and a commercial center that’s easy to get to on foot or bike. 


Thirty-five years later, the neighborhood is thriving, with people shopping and enjoying recreation close to home. There are no big backyards, but plenty of communal places to enjoy the outdoors. The busy community center has a large outdoor pool, sports courts and playgrounds. Kentlands Market Square contains national chain stores and restaurants interspersed with small local businesses and office spaces. A day care center and Rachel Carson Elementary School are located within the community, and Lakelands Park Middle School and Quince Orchard High School are nearby. 


The atmosphere is small-town America, with white picket fences, mature trees and plenty of public spaces for residents to gather. There is a regular farmers market at the Main Street Pavilion, live music, and yoga classes and “Yappy Hours” (for dogs and their owners) on the town green.

Housing Stock

There is a purposeful mix of housing types, sizes and prices within the community’s approximately 2,100 homes in the various districts. The residential units include large single-family homes, smaller single-family houses called urban cottages, townhouses, condominiums, rental apartments and senior living apartments. 


The Kentlands Mansion, completed in 1900 by Frederick Tschiffely Jr. and sold to Otis Beall Kent in 1942, now belongs to the city of Gaithersburg and is used as an events venue. Adjacent to it is the Gaithersburg Arts Barn, a renovated and restored horse stable that’s now home to a gallery and theater space. 


This story appears in the September/October issue of Bethesda Magazine.