Rockville, MD another Washington D.C. suburb hosting a quality Urban Town Center

Downtown Rockville is really just a TOD plopped into the center of a mid century suburb. I included the entire new urbanist Rockville Town Square along with several other adjacent urban blocks. Jefferson St forms the southern border, Van Buren Street to the west, Dawson to the north, and the Metro line to the east.

Rockville, along with neighboring Gaithersburg and Bethesda, is at the core of the I-270 Technology Corridor, home to numerous software & biotechnology companies. Rockville remained a very small town until after WWII after it was connected via I 270. It had only 2,000 residents in 1940 and by 1970 was over 40,000. That being said Rockville’s historic urban core has always been pretty small. Yet this modest historic downtown was mostly wiped clean with ambitious urban renewal efforts  in the 1960s. The Rockville mall replaced it but for only three decades before it too was demolished. A new urbanist town center “Rockville Town Center” replaced this in 2009. This mixed use center works well with the nearby metro station built in 1984.

Because of Downtown Rockville’s demolition happy past, the lay out and urban form outside of the Rockville Town Center is haphazard and uncomfortable for pedestrians. The worse example of this is the auto centric Rockville Pike running along the eastern side of dwtn. Thankfully city leaders got it right with Rockville Town Center and created a high quality urban base for downtown to work from. It is well laid out, holds a great civic center, mixes retail, entertainment, and residential options (that are actually reasonably priced). Hopefully the City continues to construct quality in-fill projects in-line with the same spirit of the Rockville Town Center.
Click here to view the entire Rockville album on my Flickr page

URBAN STRENTHS:

* With the Metro and quality bus service dwtn Rockville has great public transit service. As good as most inner city neighborhoods.
* That helps provide good access to Dwtn where a metro ride is only 30 minutes. Driving on the other hand is 45-1 hr.
* Fair amount of dedicated bike lanes and several bike stations but doesn’t really connect to a larger system.
* Incomes are high but decent income diversity in Dwtn Rockville including a 15% poverty rate. Solid racial diversity as well.
* For sale options are mostly condos but reasonable prices. One can purchase a 1-bedroom condos in the 100Ks, 2-bedrooms in the 200Ks. Limited 3-bedroom product.
* Excellent example of how to build urban infill from scratch, especially at Rockville Town Center. Some crummy 1950s-1980 mid sized towers as well along Rockville Pike.
* ADA infrastructure and sidewalks is high quality but some streets have high traffic making it uncomfortable to walk.
* Cultural amenities include a great array of restaurants, bars, and cafes, a cineplex,  several live music venues, a community arts center, and a handful of art galleries and local historic museums.
* Excellent retail amenities as well include a supermarket, a couple pharmacies, a dwtn library, bookstores, and a bunch of clothing and neighborhood stores.
* Several walkable well rated schools are located on the border of Dwtn Rockville (i.e. Catholic grade school, public elementary & high school).

URBAN WEAKNESSES:

* Rockville Pike which flanks dwtn Rockville to the east is a basically a local highway. It has sidewalks but not a pleasant pedestrian experience.
* Good amount of rentals but on the high end. Rents start for a 1-bedroom at 1.5K, 2-bedrooms around $2,000. Limited 3-bedroom product.
* Park space is pretty limited within Downtown besides the excellent new urbanist plaza in the middle of Rockville Town Center. Welsh Park is also only 1/2 away and hosts a ton of park amenities.

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