Replacing Dawsons Market Requires a Cluster of Solutions; That May Be Too Much for the Mayor and Council
At the end of October 2018, Dawson’s Market closed in Rockville’s downtown. It was a big disappointment for the City of Rockville, who hailed its arrival in 2012 as a major success for the new Town Square. They spent years searching for an anchoring grocery store to attract daily shoppers to support the adjacent stores and restaurants (see MyMCM video, which includes hopeful remarks by several current and former elected officials).
In response to its closing, Dawson’s opened a short-lived $100,000 GoFundMe campaign and the Rockville Mayor and Council held two special meetings to discuss the future of Town Square (a couple other businesses recently closed as well) on October 9 and November 13, which attracted standing-room-only crowds. These meetings generated lots of questions, including current efforts by Federal Realty Investment Trust (FRIT) and the City of Rockville. Unfortunately, most of FRIT’s responses are vague and uninformative:
- “not uncommon for independent business owners to have more challenges than larger chains” (so what are the major challenges and how are you addressing them?)
- “lease rates are determined through…many variables” (so what are the lease rates and how do they compare to areas outside of Town Square?)
- “we value and pursue feedback from our merchants” (so what are they telling you and what have you learned?)
So what are the challenges facing merchants in Town Square? According to Continue reading →
On Wednesday, December 13, 2017 at 7:00 p.m., the Rockville Planning Commission will be considering three new development projects that could add two houses and 310 apartments to the city in downtown and Lincoln Park. Here’s what’s on the agenda:
1. 304 Frederick Avenue in Lincoln Park: JJ Realty of Bethesda proposes to create two residential lots from a 11,428-square foot lot, which will require a waiver to allow a minimum lot area below 6,000 square feet in a R-60 zone. Because this subdivision consists of fewer than 3 lots, it is exempt from the APFO.
2. 50 Monroe Place in Downtown Rockville (currently a vacant lot adjacent to the Americana Centre): RST Development proposes the development of an 81-foot-high/7-story building with 1300-sf restaurant, 8000-sf office for non-profit organizations, 70 apartments, and an underground garage on a half-acre of land located on the south side of Monroe Place, with a request to reduce the parking requirement from 91 to 40 spaces because of its proximity to public transit. The property is zoned Mixed Use Transit District (MXTD). A majority of the apartments will be Continue reading →
The Rockville Mayor and Council recently engaged the Novak Consulting Group (who aided in the search for the new city manager) to help refine their list of 23 priorities created in 2016—far too many to get things done. As a result, the Mayor and Council identified the priorities among their priorities, coming up with a list of twelve which are overwhelmingly focused on city planning and development, and may just be wishful thinking: Continue reading →
Rockvillians (and anyone else) can now have their orders shipped to Amazon@CollegePark, which is especially handy for students (and their parents) at the University of Maryland. It offers a safe and secure location where you can pick up your package on your time – no more attempted deliveries or missing packages, or delays in a mail room. They’ll hold your package for up to 15 days before returning it. Plus, Prime and Student members receive Free Same-Day Pickup on millions of items when they place their order before noon and ship to Amazon@CollegePark, or Free One-Day Pickup on orders placed after noon. They also accept returns of most items that were sold by Amazon.com. The only thing you can’t do here is shop—there are no products available for purchase (that would be HUUUGE store, believe me).
You can learn more by visiting at Terrapin Row at 4200 Guilford Drive, Suite B1 in College Park just south of the University of Maryland campus.
The new and larger 24-hour Safeway store that opened in December on Rockville Pike near the Twinbrook Metro in Rockville is having a domino effect on other businesses in the area. When it opened, it made the Safeway in the Twinbrook Shopping Center at 2200 Viers Mills Road redundant, so it closed a couple months ago and left another empty store in the shopping center. Recent rumors suggest that it soon be filled by Lotte Mart, a South Korean market chain with more than 200 stores worldwide, including Gaithersburg and Wheaton, but its arrival won’t be welcomed by everyone—the nearby small Asian Market will close, leaving another hole in the shopping center.
As the owner of Asian Market explained, “between the increased rent and the new competition [Lotte Mart], I can’t stay in business. It’s already hard enough to make a profit while working 16 hour days, so I’ll be closing at the end of August and looking for a job working for someone else.” Although it’s small store with just three aisles, it represented a wide range of culinary cultures, including Chinese, Thai, Japanese, Cambodian, Korean, Philipino, and Indonesian, that are not typically found in the larger Lotte Mart or Great Wall. To clear out its inventory, it is selling its bottled, canned, and dry goods (except rice) at a 20 percent discount. The soy sauce and sambals are all gone, but there still was plenty of Thai curry, coconut milk, and noodles on the shelves when I visited a couple days ago.
The former Safeway store, just like the Twinbrook Library, is on a parcel that is owned separately from the rest of the shopping center but serve as anchors that attract customers. The building is almost twenty years old but still serviceable, but too small for today’s major grocery, department, or hardware stores. An Asian or Hispanic grocery store seems to be the most likely candidate, especially with the demographics of the neighborhood, and when it comes in, it too will have a domino effect on the rest of the shopping center. Whether it will be good or bad remains to be seen. It’s pushed one business out but could attract others—and it badly needs to fill the half dozen stores that are empty.
Rockville residents Tom Moore and Dana Tofig recently launched MoCo Beat, a podcast about “the news, the politics, and the life of Montgomery County.” Moore is an attorney with the Federal Elections Commission and recently concluded four years of service on the Rockville City Council. Tofig works in the research arm of the US Department of Education was formerly the Public Information Officer with Montgomery County Public Schools. Their first episode looks at the Rockville Pike Plan, the recently adopted Montgomery County budget, places to buy beer, and new restaurants in downtown Rockville. The first podcast is just short of 40 minutes and looks like it might be a weekly production.
With the demise of the Gazette newspaper and spartan coverage by the Washington Post, it is difficult to locate news about Rockville but here are the ones I know: Continue reading →
On Monday, May 9, the Rockville Mayor and Council will continue its worksession on “Rockville’s Pike Neighborhood Plan.” Along with building heights and pedestrian crossings, traffic congestion is a major controversy and the conversation has become terribly confusing: widening or narrowing the road, keeping or eliminating the access roads, extending adjacent roads, increasing Metro service, and incorporating bus rapid transit (BRT). Some of these solutions are beyond the control of the City (such as Metro service), some benefit one group versus another (such as businesses or nearby residents), and others are so expensive or far in the future that their feasibility is unclear (such as the BRT). What’s become incredibly confusing are Continue reading →
A new Safeway grocery store opened this past week at 1800 Rockville Pike across the street from the Twinbrook Metro and part of the Galvan at Twinbrook Apartments. It will soon be joined by Smashburger, Shobha (hair salon), Floyd’s 99 Barbershop, Dunkin Donuts, Pie 360 (pizza), Capriotti’s Sandwich Shop, and Ethan Allen. The new Safeway enriches a corridor of grocery stores within a half-mile of each other, including Fresh Market, Trader Joe’s, Target, Giant, and My Organic Market (MOM).
On-street parking is limited and metered (free on weekends) so most people will prefer parking in the underground garage via Bouic Avenue, where the first two hours are free (this location is adjacent to Metro, so nearby parking is always restrictive). There’s another entrance for underground parking on Chapman, but that’s for the apartment residents.
There’s usually not much to say about the opening of a new Safeway store because they’re so common across America with the usual produce, meat, seafood, bakery, deli, pharmacy, florist, salad bar, sushi, and Starbucks but this one has a few differences that might interest you:
- open 24-hours every day. Security guards were posted at the entrance and in the garage this morning; not sure if this is temporary or permanent.
- a new layout with fresh produce along the entire front of the store. I understand they want to have the fresh stuff up front but it’s not an efficient circulation pattern for customers.
- special sections for Kosher, gluten-free, and organic foods. A Kosher Chocolate Factory will be at the store on Sunday, December 13 at 3:30 p.m., suggesting they may be offering special events throughout the year.
- bulk sale of nuts, seeds, grains, and more. Available loose so you can buy as much or little as you need.
- some aisles, particularly those with small items like medicines, have lighting on individual shelves to increase visibility.
- a room with tables and chairs near the entrance for customers to talk over coffee or use wifi. Not sure why it’s called the Hungerford Room–it’s no where near Hungerford. Halpine, Montrose, or Twinbrook would have been more appropriate.
- a Team Room selling shirts, mugs, and souvenirs from local professional sport teams.
- no beer or wine sales, due to the crazy restrictions of Montgomery County. You’ll have to go to Olney if you want to buy beer and wine in a Safeway.
It seems that the half of the employees have been re-assigned from other Safeway stores and the rest are new. And while this Safeway store has just opened, the store on Randolph Road and Parklawn recently closed and the one on Veirs Mill in Twinbrook will close soon.
For other related news, see:
- “Brand New Safeway Opened in Twinbrook” in Rockville View (December 9, 2015)
- “County’s Largest Safeway opens on Rockville Pike in Montgomery Community Media (December 9, 2015)
- “Safeway Plans to Open in December near Twinbrook Metro” in Bethesda Magazine (November 13, 2015)
- “Safeway-Anchored Project by Twinbrook Metro Ready for Ground-breaking” in Washington Business Journal (September 26, 2013)
Choice Hotels International, Inc., headquartered in Rockville, celebrated the grand opening of its new Cambria Hotel & Suites on Monday night in downtown Rockville. Choice Hotels is one of the world’s largest lodging companies, with more than 6,300 hotels franchised in more than 35 countries and territories and 613 hotels in development, including Ascend Hotel, Comfort Inn, Clarion, Econo Lodge, and Rodeway Inn. The celebration included speeches by City of Rockville Mayor Bridget Newton; Steve Joyce, President and CEO of Choice Hotels; Michael Murphy, Senior Vice President of Upscale Brands at Choice Hotels; and Marc Dubick, President of Duball, LLC, as well as entertainment featuring clowns, jugglers, and an aerialist.
Built by Duball, LLC with institutional capital partner CIM Group, and operated by Crescent Hotels & Resorts, Cambria Hotel & Suites stands at 1 Helen Heneghan Way (recently named for a former beloved City Clerk) between the Regal Theater and the headquarters of Choice Hotels International. The 140-room hotel spans eight floors of the 15-story west tower, the first of two towers in the mixed-use high-rise complex. A parking garage is built into the building’s structure, giving guests a convenient place for parking and allowing all rooms to enjoy an exterior view. In addition to the Cambria Hotel, the complex will also be Continue reading →
Last week, I received the following email message from Joe Jordan, who is closely associated with Bridget Newton‘s election campaign:
Max, there have been at least two occasions where Clark Reed has been seen wearing a handmade name tag that reads “Rockville City Council – Clark Reed”. It was pointed out to him at the MPT showing on Friday, yet he wore it again at RTS on Saturday. Recalling two years ago, I recall how you were concerned about integrity and propriety and following election guidelines, and while nametags may not be covered under them, I am sure you can see how misleading his nametag can be.
Can I be confident in the fact you will bring this to his and Sima [Osdoby]’s attention, and ask that, at a minimum, he and all slate candidates use the wording “candidate for” if they are not incumbents.
Thanks for your attention to this important matter.
Mr. Jordan is correct that name badges are not specifically addressed in Rockville’s election code (although it addresses nearly everything else: “any pamphlet, circular, card, sample ballot, dodger, poster, advertisement or any printed, multigraphed, photographed, typewritten or written matter or statement or any matter or statement which may be copied by any device”) and that I value transparency, honesty, and accuracy in government (and in business and personal relationships). I’ve passed his message onto the candidates of Team Rockville, but just to clarify, each candidate that is part of the Team is responsible for his or her own campaign (I don’t manage individual campaigns, just the Team’s; and this blog is mine, not the Team’s).
More important, though, I am growing increasingly concerned with the topics deemed important in this election. Richard Gottfried sent out the first campaign mailer of the season and accused his opponents of associating with “fat cat developers” without providing any evidence. On the Twinbrook Listserv a couple weeks ago, Brigitta Mullican complained about the inaccuracies in my blog post (I said Beryl Feinberg worked in the county’s office of management and budget) and that she wasn’t allowed to post comments, then recruited Beryl Feinberg to pile on:
Continue reading →