Report: Rockville’s Problem Is Too Much Retail Space

Rockville has too much retail space for the number of residents the Town Center serves, and the city should consider more housing to ensure an adequate customer base, according to a report issued Thursday.

The report, conducted in conjunction with the Urban Land Institute, also suggested the Town Square library site might be better suited as a retail establishment.

And it questioned whether Dawson’s market was appropriate for the nearby customers, especially because of Wegman’s plans to build a large grocery store about 3 miles away.

The report follows months of community consternation at the closure of stores and restaurants around Town Square.

In October 2018, a few hundred people crammed into a meeting room to tell city leaders to keep Dawson’s open, fix the parking and look at the rents that were forcing businesses to close.

Dawson’s, which fulfilled a city promise that the redeveloped Town Center would include a grocery store, announced it would close at the end of October 2018. With help from the city, Dawson’s reopened in December under new ownership.

The report suggests the city hire a parking consultant. But it never discusses the cost of rent.

“It is their opinion their expert opinion and not anybody in the city telling them what they ought to think,” said David Levy, assistant director of the Department of Planning and Development Services. “To the extent that they raise questions that are new to be raised or may end up being controversial, that’s the benefit of an outside group.”

The 40-some page report, which cost $15,000, was written by a technical assistance panel made up of planners in the public and private sector. The report will be presented formally to Rockville’s Mayor and Council, Levy said. A worksession will be scheduled to discuss which parts the elected leaders want to pursue.

It also will be part of the city planning commission’s deliberations on updating Rockville’s comprehensive plan, a guide to land use.

The report notes that the math doesn’t add up for the Town Center. It has 500,000 square feet of retail space, but the Town Center serves about 17,000 to 20,000 people. It cites that the United States has about 23 square feet of retail per capita, which would mean about 400,000 square feet. The report says the Town Center is “over-retailed.”

The report says nearby parcels could accommodate 1,800 to 2,000 dwelling units, thereby adding about 4,000 more residents, which would in turn support retail.

The panel also suggested Rockville do more to bring people into Town Center, with signage at the plaza on the eastern end of the skyway from the Rockville Metro Station. The city also should pursue ways to get Montgomery College students into the Town Center.

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Dawson’s, Parking, Rent Major Issues on Rockville Town Square

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Douglas Tallman

About Douglas Tallman

Reporter with 35 years experience throughout Maryland. Reach me at or via Twitter at @MCM-Doug


5 Responses to “Report: Rockville’s Problem Is Too Much Retail Space”

  1. Avatar
    On September 20, 2019 at 8:45 am responded with... #

    Just lower rent and make parking free & Town center will be packed.

  2. Avatar
    On September 20, 2019 at 10:36 am responded with... #

    so what? all these businesses go into this with their eyes wide open. If there is too much space Fed Realty needs to lower the rents or repurpose the space. If you are a retailer don’t go to a location that costs too much. What is the problem here? The only problem I see is that this is somewhat intertwined with the City of Rockville. They should just stick to zoning and get out of this. We don’t need to have hearings on this – it is a waste of time. Let the private sector work it out. Some people will make money and some people will lose money. If you don’t want to play that game, get a job where someone else takes the risk.

  3. Avatar
    On September 21, 2019 at 11:11 am responded with... #

    No need to do anything here. Rockville is already becoming far too overpopulated. The only thing I ever see under construction are cookie cutter apartment buildings that serve only to overcrowd schools and congest traffic.

    All businesses know what the rent costs before they sign the paperwork. It’s on them to make it work, not my tax dollars. The stores that closed weren’t good anyways. There are plenty of anchors that have been there for a long time without issue. Maybe cook better food?

    I’m tired of this City and county trying to increase housing and population. When the city strives for SO MUCH affordable housing like it does now, THAT’S what leads to businesses failing. It’s folks that are trying to live beyond their means, so they overspend on housing and must sacrifice elsewhere. Eating out and luxury shopping are the first to go.

    Why not just accept that not everyone can afford to live everywhere? I can’t live in Beverly Hills or in Upper Manhattan. I don’t really see those communities caring or doing anything to get me there.

  4. Avatar
    On September 21, 2019 at 1:06 pm responded with... #

    My brother lives 1.5 miles from Town Center. He’d much prefer driving to Montgomery Mall or any shopping center on the Pike rather than pay for parking at Town Center.
    Dawson’s was and still is the wrong kind of market for Town Center. I had hoped that the new management would have made changes to make the store relevant to the residents here, but any changes are negligible. I NEVER shop there. If I need groceries, I car or bike to Giant. Giant has what I need at a reasonable price.

    Outlandish retail rent fees will never go down as long as someone keeps paying them. The good thing about this report is that it’s a tool potential incoming retailers can use. It tells them that retail is not likely to be viable at current prices and they should stay away. Maybe then rent fees will become more realistic and businesses will have a chance to thrive.

  5. Avatar
    On September 21, 2019 at 1:30 pm responded with... #

    So the report suggests there is too much retail space in Town Center, then suggests that the library site “might be better suited as a retail establishment?” Really?

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