George and Holly Stone moved to the small Howard County community of Clarksville from Rockland County, N.Y., in 1990. During the past 27 years, they’ve seen their sleepy little village slowly grow and thrive, not only as a gateway between Baltimore and Washington, D.C., but as a live-work-play destination in its own right.
The Stones wanted to be part of Clarksville’s ongoing development but in a planful, environmentally conscious way. To achieve that objective, they formed GreenStone Ventures II LLC and are the principal developers of Clarksville Commons.
The 40,000-square-foot sustainable, mixed-use commercial center is designed to create “a sense of place” on the site of the former Gateway School on Route 108 in the center of Clarksville.
Featuring environmentally sustainable architectural design, Clarksville Commons’ buildings feature solar panels, a living green roof, rainwater cisterns and rain gardens and porous surfaces to prevent storm water runoff. Clarksville Commons tenants also agree to follow such sustainability principles as reducing waste and using resources effectively.
The two-story buildings, housing restaurants and shops, are centered on a courtyard that will host farmers markets, art shows and concerts to provide a community gathering space.
Although the center is still several months away from being fully up and running — October is the projected date — it already has captured the Wintergreen Award for Excellence for “Small Commercial Redevelopment in Maryland” from the U.S. Green Business Council. The award highlights the green-building initiatives and achievements of Maryland community projects, businesses and individuals.
“Sustainability and environmental awareness have always been a part of our lives,” said Holly, 63, a former environmental scientist and educator who grew up in Silver Spring. George, 67, who grew up in Rancho Mirage, Calif., near the Mojave Desert, holds a doctorate in neurobiology and was a scientist with the National Institutes of Health for many years.
Tenants already signed up for Clarksville Commons include Food Plenty, a restaurant offering made-from-scratch comfort food by the owners of Victoria’s Gastro Pub, a popular Howard County restaurant; You Pizza; Kupcakes & Co.; Creig Northrop real estate; and Vanguard Orthodontics.
The Stones, who belong to Oseh Shalom Synagogue in Laurel, also plan to establish a marketplace with a commercial kitchen for incubator food-related businesses. Currently, a farmers market featuring Howard County produce and products is held at the Commons every Thursday from 3 to 7 p.m.
“This is an exciting time for us and for Clarksville,” said Holly, who grew up in a family of real estate developers.
Although this is the first time the couple has held the majority stake in a commercial venture, it is not their first foray into development. “We’ve both done a lot of different things in our life,” Holly said.
Especially close to her heart is their 1994 purchase and redevelopment of the 250-acre Medomak Camp in the small Maine town of Washington. Between 1966 and 1976, Holly spent her summers at Medomak, first as a camper, then as a counselor. Despite its state of disrepair by 1994, the Stones bought the camp, which originated in 1904 as a farming camp for city boys.
In the summer of 1995, Medomak Camp reopened as one of the first secular, all-season family camps in the country where parents and kids can enjoy activities such as canoeing, archery, fishing, arts and crafts and campfires. A nearby retreat center is open year-round.
“It’s a vacation for the families, but from June to August it’s a 24/7 job for us!” Holly said with a laugh.
Between renovating the camp — an ongoing process for the past 23 years — and the development of Clarksville Commons, Holly admitted that the couple may be “almost burned out” when it comes to building and developing.
“But when we see something that needs to be done, we jump in,” she said. “So we’ll never say never!”
For information, visit clarksvillecommons.com.
Top photo: Holly and George Stone are the principal developers of Clarksville Commons, a 40,000-square-foot sustainable, mixed-use commercial center in Clarksville. (Photo courtesy of Holly and George Stone)
Carol Sorgen is a Baltimore-based freelance writer.
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