Asian Retail Expands in Downtown Rockville

This just in from the JBG Companies:  they’ve fully leased their retail space at 275 North Washington Street, a new mixed-use building in downtown Rockville anchored by Bank of America (where the Giant Grocery store once stood).

Reflecting the growing international flavor of the surrounding area, four Asian-owned businesses have signed for the remaining retail spaces adjacent to Rockville Town Square. They are French-Asian cafe Lavande Patisserie, Kung Fu Tea, Quickway Hibachi Grill and Amber Door Day Spa. In addition to 12,000 square feet of retail space on the ground floor, JBG’s 275 North Washington Street includes 12,000 square feet of available Class A office space on a second level.

“This area offers a unique multi-ethnic dining and shopping experience that adds flavor and choices. It’s a draw for Rockville residents and for those living outside the city,” said Anthony Greenberg, a JBG principal. “There are several Asian markets and authentic Chinese restaurants near 275 North Washington Street, and we are pleased to be a part of an organically emerging district.”

Lily Qi, director of special projects for the Montgomery County executive, said Rockville is known as the Chinatown of Montgomery County because of its high concentration of ethnic Chinese residents and Asian businesses. Rockville’s central location and accessibility makes it a magnet for amenities that cater to the everyday living needs of this population, as well as to the tastes of the broader community who enjoy a diversity of cuisines and retail choices.

Retailers are moving into their spaces this month and expect to open this spring. Bob Liang, founder of regional Quickway Japanese Hibachi, said he chose the location because of the area’s diverse demographics and proximity to Rockville Town Center. The restaurant, which features fast casual Japanese, will be the 10th to open in the D.C. region.

Lavande Patisserie, owned by mother and son Julie Yi and Andrew Liang of Gaithersburg, is a farm-to-table café and will serve breakfast, lunch and French pastries with an Asian twist, such as kumquat fruit tarts. Lavande will butcher its meat in-house, mill its own flour, make its own creams. “Everything is fresh and purchased within 50 miles, nothing is store bought or pre-processed,” said Liang. Kung Fu Tea is a national franchise from New York that serves specialty tea drinks. The Rockville location will be the first in the Maryland, D.C., and Virginia area. Amber Door Day Spa is locally owned and will offer spa packages that include massages, facials, body treatments, makeup and more.

A big hole between this new development and Town Square is 255 N. Washington, the big corner lot at Washington and Beall that had a Modernist 5-story office building and the Bank of America.  Demolished in late 2012, it’s remained an empty lot ever since.  In October 2014, the Planning Commission approved a mid-rise mixed use building of 275 multi-family residential units and 6,113 sf of street-level commercial use at a height of 100 feet.  This will increase attendance at overcrowded Beall Elementary School, although it “satisfied the adequate public facilities findings at the time of the PDP approval and remains within its validity period”–that was a decade ago.  I suppose some projects that are underway should be allowed to continue with their plans if the city regulations change mid-stream, but this seems excessive–“grandfathering” should expire after five years, not last a lifetime.  Strangely, the 2004 approval by the Planning Commission was made with several conditions, including that the property owner “contribute” $183,000 for traffic calming and traffic impacts in the West End.  It makes me uncomfortable that “contributions” are made to specific neighborhoods because it creates an unintentional conflict of interest–are people supporting this project because it’s good for Rockville or good for their neighborhood?  Brigitta Mullican was on the Planning Commission in 2004 and supported this project, and because she’s just announced her candidacy for City Council, this might be something to ask her about.  I suspect Mayor Bridget Newtown will also seek re-election this fall, so she’s another candidate to ask about her support for this new development because she approved the demolition of 255 N. Washington in 2012 to make it happen.


%d bloggers like this: