Life in the Kentlands is already pretty darn good. With spring upon us, we have only to step out of our front doors to appreciate the natural beauty of our community. While it may be hard to believe that it can get better, Kentlands Community Foundation, in partnership with the KCA and many other stakeholders, is working hard to enhance the quality of life for Kentlands’ residents and to maintain and grow our property values.
When a Kentlands’ resident purchases a home here, the closing costs include four months of the homeowner’s assessments paid to a fund designated as the Titleholders’ Initial Contributions, aka the TIC fund. Our original developer clearly defined both the level of contributions and the purpose for which they are to be used in our founding documents to which we must adhere. The purpose is for the funding of programs determined to be beneficial to the qualities of the social and cultural life in Kentlands, specifically but not solely to fund the Kentlands Community Foundation. Each year the Foundation goes before the KCA Board of Trustees to request funding for a portion of our annual budget.
Sales of homes in Kentlands ebb and flow with the economy. During the recession, incoming funds to the TIC obviously declined. More recently, income has gone up, and a sizable surplus has accumulated. The KCA Board of Trustees takes its fiduciary responsibilities to prudently manage these funds very seriously, but at the same time it is responsible to the quality of life in Kentlands. Because of this surplus, the Trustees asked the Foundation to develop proposals for special purpose uses of a portion of the fund balance. Our mandate was to develop proposals of significant benefit to the residents, while staying true to our mission. Our board went to work in multiple strategic planning meetings to meet this request. At the KCA Board of Trustees meeting on Wednesday, April 26th, members of the KCF board presented three proposals.
- Kentlands Cultural Arts Center: Joseph Alfandre had a vision for Kentlands which involved participation in the arts, including civic arts. The formation of KCF grew out of that vision, but our various grassroots cultural programs fall short of fully delivering a significant cultural arts experience in Kentlands. The City of Gaithersburg embraces the arts and supports the arts community, but is limited by existing space in Kentlands and funds to devote exclusively to our community. We propose a public/private partnership with the City to create a cultural arts center & plaza to tie together the Mansion, Arts Barn, Carriage House and the Green into a cohesive center. Plans would include a covered outdoor theater, additional artists’ studios and galleries, and a community plaza.
- Main Street Initiative: While Kentlands has been heralded as a model New Urbanist community, the focal point of our neighborhood, Main Street, has aged and deteriorated. The Kentlands Community Foundation has identified the revitalization of our Main Street as a priority. We conducted a survey in March of the Live/Work property and business owners, and the results shed great light onto the need for cohesive management, marketing and ultimately an improved business mix. Our focus will be to develop sustainable solutions. We propose to step into the role of an interim merchants’ association with funds spent for marketing, new events and a coordinated approach to filling space on Main Street with new business models such as co-working space, artists’ studios or small non-industrial manufacturing, combined with support for entrepreneurs. Ultimately the plan will include a long term funding solution for ongoing support of the Main Street business district.
- Kentlands New Urbanism Scholarship: A scholarship program that would provide financial support to architecture/urban planning students contingent on a commitment by recipients to conduct a significant study of the Kentlands. By financially supporting the study of New Urbanism for selected Urban Planning/Architecture students, the program would keep the Kentlands at the center of the New Urbanist discussion, while helping the Kentlands grow and evolve based on meaningful and thoughtful input from new and emerging leaders in the field. Over time this will create a small community of new Urbanist scholars with special knowledge, commitment and connection to the Kentlands. The program would be administered by and through one or more universities with programs meeting the criteria.
I’m thrilled to report that the Board of Trustees was supportive of all three ideas. Our proposals at this point are very preliminary, and we now must get to work on the specifics to bring before the Trustees before any final approvals. I am happy to share the preliminary proposals with the community, just reach out to me at email@example.com, or visit our website.