After nine years serving as executive director of the Montclair Business Improvement District in New Jersey, Tom Lonergan relocated to Gaithersburg last fall to take on the challenges faced by businesses in this community.
“The first six months have been about analysis and introduction,” said Lonergan of his role as economic development director for the city of Gaithersburg.
Among the most pressing issues on the city’s economic radar are the completion of the Watkins Mill exchange, the sale of Lakeforest Mall, and the need to maximize the potential of the Route 355 corridor.
“We are eagerly anticipating the outcome of the sale of Lakeforest Mall,” said Lonergan. While the city has no official preference on whether the mall remains a shopping center or becomes something else, “We want it to be better than it is,” he said.
Lonergan would like the city to focus on maximizing the potential of the Route 355 corridor. “Route 355 is a principle north-south artery and is not reaching its potential,” he said.
Turning his focus to the Kentlands/Lakelands community, he said, “Main Street in Kentlands is underperforming as a destination.” The city has set aside funds to hire a consultant to study the directional signage to the Kentlands business district, and the Kentlands Downtown Partnership will work closely with this consultant. “We hope to initiate the study this year,” said Lonergan.
The director would like to continue to build relationships with commercial property owners in order to fill vacant spaces and enhance the Main Street experience by welcoming a more diverse mix of businesses to the area. “It’s important to work with businesses that don’t have national representation,” he said.
In a proactive effort to improve the Kentlands business community, the city of Gaithersburg has developed resident, business and commercial property owner surveys in order to gain the perspective of those most directly affected by the success of the area. Questions for the survey were developed by the city through informal discussion with residents and business owners over the last few months.
Residents of Kentlands, Lakelands and Quince Orchard Park should receive a postcard by mail within the first few weeks of April. The postcard will introduce the survey and provide directions for accessing and completing the survey online. To receive a hard copy of the survey, residents may contact Tom Lonergan at City Hall, 31 South Summit Avenue, Gaithersburg, MD 20877.
The deadline for submitting completed surveys is May 11.
The questions that comprise the resident survey cover a myriad of topics, including the types of businesses residents would like to see in the neighborhood, their favorite shops and restaurants, parking, safety and more.
The surveys for business and commercial property owners are similar and include questions about the challenges and experiences they have encountered. To get better acquainted, Lonergan will personally hand deliver the surveys to each business owner. The surveys for commercial property owners will be mailed.
Lonergan also recently announced the development of the first-ever independent economic development website for the city of Gaithersburg. The website, www.growgaithersburg.com, will launch soon and has been developed by the Old Town Advisory Committee and the Economic Development Office.