- The Washington Times - Monday, September 18, 2000

Project will change the face of the rural Montgomery town

The developer of Reston Town Center broke ground on a similar complex in Clarksburg last week, one of two projects expected to transform the rustic town in northern Montgomery County.

Dallas-based Terrabrook began carving lots for the first 27 single-family homes in the Clarksburg Town Center, a 268-acre complex that will eventually feature 1,300 apartments, town houses and single-family homes and 250,000 square feet of retail and office space.

The project will be built next to Clarksburg's historic district. The town, which was founded in the 1700s, sits north of Germantown on Interstate 270.

Tom D'Alesandro, vice president of Terrabrook, said the town center will be similar to its Reston counterpart, which uses sidewalks to link homes, shops, restaurants and offices.

The Reston Town Center is the centerpiece of Reston, a planned community of about 63,000 residents in western Fairfax County.

The Clarksburg complex will feature an old-fashioned town square and a main street, as well as parkland with a softball diamond, a soccer field and a fishing pond.

Terrabrook will preserve the land where the county has proposed building a light rail line to connect Clarksburg to neighboring communities with mass transit.

"It is the very type of blueprint that helped create Reston," Mr. D'Alesandro said.

Karen Kumm Morris, a planner for the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission, said Clarksburg is the "last big chunk of undeveloped land" in Montgomery County where new construction projects are permitted.

The 30-year master plan for Clarksburg adopted in 1994 ensures new development in the town doesn't encroach on the rural landscape in northern Montgomery County, Mrs. Morris said.

"It's beautiful countryside, and no one wants to see that disrupted," she said.

Clarksburg was once one of the largest towns in Montgomery County, but the construction of a railroad and the interstate helped drive residents away. It has been isolated from the growth in the rest of the county since the 1950s.

The town's population was 2,061 in 1997, according to the most recent figures available from the park and planning commission. The population is expected to increase to about 40,000 in the next 25 years, Mrs. Morris said.

The Clarksburg Town Center is one of two projects expected to transform the quiet town into a busier community.

The second, Clarksburg Village, will place about 2,500 homes on a 1,000-acre stretch of land in between the town center and Route 27.

Elm Street Corp. of McLean is the lead developer of Clarksburg Village.

Steve Howie, president of the Clarksburg Civic Association, said some residents worry the 30-year master plan calls for too much development in the town.

The Clarksburg master plan adopted six years ago represented a compromise between residents and public officials who could not agree on how much development should be permitted in the town, Mr. Howie said.

"Even today, I think you will find a lot of people who question how fast this development should be going," Mr. Howie said.

Proponents of the Clarksburg Town Center say it is an example of "new urbanism," a movement to reduce suburban sprawl by encouraging developers to build communities where people can live and work.

New urbanism is becoming more popular as Americans grow weary of the automobile traffic that suburban sprawl generates, according to the Congress for New Urbanism, a San Francisco-based advocacy group.

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