It's no secret that Gaithersburg has a bit of an image problem. It may be Maryland's fourth largest city, but it also lacks the basic accouterments young professionals seek for a live-work environment: restaurants, nightlife, shopping, movie theaters and the like (and the City Fathers seem to agree). Local developer Keystone Real Estate Investments LLC is the trying to rope in that demographic by using a tact usually reserved for the inner city: demolishing affordable housing projects in the Olde Towne city center and replacing them with a slew of rental apartments targeted at the twenty-something set.
Keystone's first act in this arena will be the Residences at Olde Towne - a 191-unit, two-building development scheduled to be built at the current site of the Diamond House and Diamond Acres apartments at the intersection of Water and Diamond Streets. Described as having an "upscale hotel"-type feel, the project has already been unanimously approved by the Montgomery County Planning Commission and pinned down a March 2011 start date.
Betting on success, the developer has already lined up a sequel a few blocks away. The Suites 355 will land at the base of old town's main drag, Frederick Avenue, and go even bigger: 268 “multifamily” units in a four-story building. The Suites, too, will replace an affordable housing development, the Executive Gardens, and, the way Keystone sees it, there could not be any more of an improvement.
“It is the blighted conditions of these [buildings] and the nearby area that cause these apartments to be deemed affordable housing, as there are no legal requirements for these apartments to be rented at affordable rent amounts,” says the developer. “The new 459 apartments on the two sites will include 69 Moderately Priced Dwelling Units…as required by the city’s Affordable Housing Ordinance.”
Though plans for the Suites 355 have yet to be filed with Planning Board officials, company reps have met with the Gaithersburg Mayor and City Council as recently as March 16th to discuss their application. Both of the projects in Keystone’s portfolio will be designed by DVA Architects, and both will be aiming for a LEED certification.