Redeveloping Lakeforest Mall could bring sustainable urban practices to Gaithersburg

Lakeforest Mall, located in Gaithersburg, experienced a steady decline in attendance, leading to the property being sold in 2018 to U.S. Bank in hopes of redeveloping it into a new, environmentally sustainable shopping area.

Some possible options for redevelopment include smart growth residential and commercial buildings and space to expand the Outer Beltway, a proposed freeway system.

“The city envisions the property as a mixed-used development, with some sort of public amenity, along with residential and office space,” Gaithersburg Mayor Jud Ashman told the Bethesda Magazine.

The smart growth choice is the more environmentally friendly of the two, as it includes mixed use buildings that cut down on urban sprawl and impervious surface area. Instead of having long, flat shopping complexes and townhouses or apartment complexes in separate, drivable areas, one building could be split into a lower level for retail with housing or office spaces in higher levels. This maximizes the efficiency of the space and lessens the amount of surface runoff from roofs and streets. Redeveloping to mixed use buildings would also encourage walking or biking, as opposed to car transportation, because everything is closer together. Lastly, it would transform the large impervious parking lot space into public green space for relaxation or sustainable buildings.

“A lot more things have to happen before Lakeforest can be redeveloped,” adds Ashman in the Bethesda Magazine.

Thomas Lonergan, the Staff Liaison for the City of Gaithersburg Economic and Business Development Committee, states, “Although we would like to see redevelopment happening, both for financial and environmental benefits, we just aren’t at that stage yet.”

Currently, the property is up for sale again. To incentivize possible buyers, the city of Gaithersburg has also expanded the enterprise zone to include Lakeforest Mall, providing lessened property and state income taxes.

Lonergan says, “One hundred acres of development potential is certainly enhanced with some generous tax and financial incentives.”

Jones Lang LaSalle, Inc., is handling the sale. In addition to the tax benefits, the company highlights the property’s prime location, as it is close to multiple bus stops along Montgomery County’s busiest routes. This readily available transportation would encourage people to use public transportation instead of cars.