An intensive two-day study of Town Center, recently conducted by an expert technical assistance panel (or TAP) from the Urban Land Institute, led to a presentation to the community of several recommendations and actionable items on ways to strengthen the vitality of Rockville’s Town Center.
TAPs are part of the ULI advisory program, in which several panelists from varying backgrounds and areas of expertise collaborate to tour the study area, conduct interviews, review material provided by staff, conduct their own research, and work on recommendations related to land use and economic development. The Town Center TAP included experts on planning, urban design, retail, real estate, economic development and downtown management.
One of the areas of focus for the panel was retail. The panel discussed the increasing competition from new developments north and south of Town Center and recommended a series of steps that could make retail more viable.
Actionable items the ULI panel recommended:
- Retaining significant employers.
- Building density in Town Center without compromising character.
- Strengthening relationships with Montgomery College and the Montgomery County Board of Education.
- Hiring a parking consultant.
- Engaging a branding, marketing and wayfinding consultant.
- Redesigning East Middle Lane and North Washington Street.
- Implementing a shuttle that connects Town Center to Montgomery College.
Next steps highlighted by the panel included: continuing to build and foster relationships; testing a pilot parking program; strengthening wayfinding throughout Town Center, as well as related marketing and messaging; and look, over time, to create a more formalized partnership of private and public sector organizations who have a stake in the success of Town Center.
Seeking analysis from an outside consultant was one of 11 potential approaches presented to the Mayor and Council to address opportunities and challenges facing the mixed-use activity center at the heart of Rockville.