Clarksville gets new 'commons' as more development is on the way

When George and Holly Stone moved to Clarksville more than 25 years ago, the couple quickly saw a need for a vibrant center along Clarksville Pike. They hope Clarksville Commons, a 40,000-square-foot commercial center they launched through GreenStone Ventures II LLC, will offer just that.

The center, which is set for a soft launch on May 23, comes as four major developments spring up along a one-mile stretch of the busy corridor. Clarksville is slated to become a pedestrian-oriented area with a commercial core, according to county plans. With public input, the county created guidelines to create a more consistent look and encourage walk-ability and bike-ability last year.


Stone hopes Clarksville Commons will unify commercial strips along the corridor. The center includes environmentally sustainable architectural designs, including cisterns to capture rainwater and surfaces that absorb stormwater runoff. A gathering place between two commercial buildings opens up to Route 108 and a commercial strip opposite the center.

"What we don't need in Clarksville is another big box store or another strip center. This was our opportunity to express a vision for the community and try to make it a reality," Stone said. "It can't be passive. This is a place where we want people to congregate, gather and spend time."

Gino Palma, owner of Facci Italian restaurant in North Laurel and Ellicott City, and former owner of Pasta Blitz in Clarksville, welcomes the idea. The Clarksville resident is opening You Pizza, a Chipotle-style restaurant that will serve create-it-yourself pizzas and salads using local ingredients.

"I'm from Naples so I know pizza. I'm in love with pizza. And I want to help my community around the corner feel that," Palma said. "We've been struggling for years to get good restaurants in the area."

But residents say traffic and walk-ability remain concerns as construction begins on at the intersection of Ten Oaks Road and Route 108, a busy interchange that heads to Route 32. Plans submitted to the county show a CVS Pharmacy, Mr. Tire and Chick-Fil-A on the property, which was used for parking by a car dealership.

Access to the property is as far away from the signalized intersection as possible to minimize disruptions at the intersection, according to Val Lazdins, director of the county's Department of Planning and Zoning. No county-led capital projects are planned along Clarksville Pike, he said.

Michael Cornell, chairman of the River Hill Community Association's board and a Clarksville resident for the last 22 years, says traffic tops his concerns posed by additional development. Increased traffic pushes drivers into neighborhoods in search of shortcuts along the state-owned road, he said.

"There are going to have to be some very bad accidents to get the state to take action," he said. "Managing traffic doesn't seem to be a high priority yet."


Also on Route 108, Beazer Homes plans to build 16 single-family houses near Guilford Road. Just opposite the two-lane street, Donaldson Funeral Home is nearing completion between a private Catholic school and Christ Lutheran Church.

Security Development also plans to repurpose River Hill Garden Center, a family-owned center for more than 20 years, into a commercial center with a bank, restaurant and long-anticipated post office.

The developer is reworking plans after the county's design advisory panel sent the company back to the drawing board in order to better comply with design guidelines earlier this year. No groundbreaking date has been set, said James Moxley III, principal of Security Development.

Clarksville's beauty lies in its location at a "crossroads," Moxley said. "It is at the edge of Columbia, with both the convenience of being near a growing urban center and yet it also has the wonderfully bucolic views and fields," he said.

Stone is hopeful the center can drive foot traffic.

In 2012, GreenStone purchased the property from the county for $5 million after an earlier deal fell through. Past efforts to find an entrance through an access road on the property of Kendall Hardware next door fell through. Currently, a large crosswalk is the only pedestrian connection to the commercial center opposite the center.


"The challenge is how do you unify the corridor instead of having a bunch of individual businesses strung out along a straight road," he said. "Route 108 is a major thoroughfare."

On May 23, Clarksville Commons will hold an event to launch the center. Kangaroo Kids, a group of precision jump ropers, will perform in the community courtyard as the center explores more partnerships with local entities like St. Louis Church less than a mile down the road.

Tenants include Kupcakes and Co., a gourmet cupcake eatery; Creig Northrop Team, a real estate brokerage; Food Plenty, a restaurant by the owners of Victoria Gastro Pub in Columbia; and a new marketplace, which Stone hopes will be an incubator-like kitchen to sell food from multiple vendors.

"In Colonial times in this country, there was the idea of the commons. It was the place in the center of town where everyone could go to hangout and find out what was going on. That's what we're going for in 2017," Stone said.