Showing posts with label parking. Show all posts
Showing posts with label parking. Show all posts

Friday, January 7, 2022

New public parking garage opens in Rockville Town Center

Parking is always a hot topic in Rockville Town Center. Now there is a new option for drivers: the public parking garage at the Ansel apartments at 33 Monroe Street. The just-opened garage is operated by Colonial Parking.

There aren't any businesses to patronize at the Ansel yet, but you can still park there when going to any other nearby destination in the town center. In fact, there may never be any businesses in the Ansel. Despite developer Duball, LLC's success in attracting desirable national brands like World of Beer and Panera Bread to the sister Upton/Cambria Suites building across the street, the company is now seeking permission to convert the ground floor retail spaces in the Ansel to residential apartments.

Friday, July 16, 2021

Rockville Town Square now offering 2 hours free parking without validation


A major challenge for businesses at Rockville Town Square has been greatly reduced after years of debate. Patrons at the Federal Realty development will now be able to park free in the Rockville Town Square garages for 2 hours, without validation. 

After two hours, the parking fees are $1 (2-3 hours), $3 (3-4 hours), and $5 (4-5 hours). While parking there still won't be free for unlimited hours like it is at competing developments Rio Lakefront and Downtown Crown, the two free hours at least makes it competitive now.

Monday, March 11, 2019

Regal Row surface parking lot closes in Rockville for the last time

It's the end of an era in Rockville Town Center. The last remaining half of the surface parking lot across from the Regal Cinemas and Cambria Hotel that once also hosted large Hometown Holidays concerts has permanently closed. Drivers are being directed into the adjacent hotel garage to park.

The closure comes as a new mixed-use project by developer Duball, LLC approved for the site begins to gain momentum. Once a popular and convenient parking destination for moviegoers and diners, the two-step closure of the lot has thrown gas on the dumpster fire that is parking in Rockville Town Center. It has also rendered Hometown Holidays a shadow of its former self.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

New Montgomery College parking garage expected to deliver by Spring 2017 semester

The new parking garage at the Montgomery College Rockville campus is expected to be completed and ready for vehicles in time for the Spring 2017 semester start in January, according to a spokesperson from the community college.

Photo by Marcus Rosano/Montgomery College

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Rockville California Tortilla for sale

The California Tortilla on "Regal Row" in Rockville town center is for sale. $329,000 is the asking price for the business, a franchisee of the burrito chain that got its start in Bethesda in the 1990s.

This CalTort's owner has been candid about the financial pressures he has been under, from the rent costs to the disastrous town center parking situation that has driven customers away from small businesses there. "You don't understand how much we're suffering. We're basically slaves now," he told the Mayor and Council during a discussion of how to fix the parking problem this past summer.

That lease runs to 2025, with a 5-year extension option, according to the sale listing.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Rockville garage entrance closure throws another monkey wrench into Town Center parking problem

The temporary closure of the Monroe Street garage entrance of 255 Rockville Pike has sent Rockville officials and business advocates scrambling to reduce the impact on businesses at Regal Row. Assistant City Manager Jenny Kimball says Colonial Parking informed the City that the entrance should reopen on August 10.

To assist Regal Row businesses, Rockville Economic Development, Inc. (REDI) has printed up posters that Regal Row merchants can post in their windows about parking alternatives. The organization is also assisting Colonial Parking in creating a sign to be posted at the Monroe Street entrance during the closure.

City staff will present the first results of their efforts to respond to the parking crisis Town Center merchants described to the Mayor and Council on June 13. Chief among them are data on available spaces near Regal Row, improved signage, and designation of 15-minute "pick-up" spaces along E. Montgomery Avenue and Maryland Avenue, for patrons picking up carry-out orders from restaurants at Regal Row and Rockville Town Square.

Staff determined that the remaining surface parking in front of the Regal Cinemas is the first to fill at peak times. In working with the operator of the garage in the new Cambria Suites/Upton building, staff has identified many available spaces there. Between 2:00 and 11:00 PM on Friday and Saturday, July 15-16, the Cambria garage had between 55 and 96 spaces open at any given moment.

As a result, staff is recommending adding signage to alert drivers to the new Cambria garage entrances. They propose adding 4 new signs to the 3 that are already in place in the vicinity of the building.

They also recommend designating two currently-metered spaces along Regal Row as free parking for 15 minutes, as well as adding two such spaces to Gibbs Street, and converting the 5-minute book drop-off spaces by the Rockville Memorial Library on Maryland Avenue to 15-minute free parking spaces. Success of the spaces would be measured by consulting with merchants in three months, to determine if the free spots are helping the situation or not.

All of the proposals will cost money, and the suggestions will be discussed at the Mayor and Council meeting this Monday, August 1, at City Hall. Please note that this meeting will begin earlier than usual at 6:30 PM, due to the size of the meeting agenda.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Mayor and Council grant road code waiver to EYA Tower Oaks project

The Mayor and Council voted 4-1 last night to grant a road code waiver to the new EYA development at Tower Oaks. Street widths would be narrowed, and some additional street parking and a 1' buffer between the sidewalk and residents' properties would both be eliminated.

Councilmember Beryl Feinberg expressed concern that there would be insufficient guest parking available on the site. Mayor Bridget Donnell Newton and Councilmember Mark Pierzchala both said they thought the EYA plan was well-balanced between parking needs, green space and walkability. Councilmember Julie Palakovich Carr, who has advocated for the City to adopt Vision Zero goals for pedestrian fatalities, said that the trade-off for better pedestrian safety was worth the compromise on parking.

The development on Preserve Parkway will include up to 375 residential units, including single-family homes, townhomes, and multi-family buildings. City staff calculated that a maximum of 41 street parking spaces would be lost under the exemption from the road code.

Aakash Thakkar, SVP of Development at EYA, said there is currently some street parking just outside the site, as well as paid garage parking at the adjacent office development, that guests could utilize. Thakkar also said that EYA is currently exploring partnerships with nearby businesses to help fund the shuttle service that is expected to take residents to Metro from the development.

Photo courtesy City of Rockville

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Town Center parking solutions miss the target for Rockville business owners

"We're basically
slaves now"

The Mayor and Council discussed solutions for the parking woes of merchants and patrons in Rockville's Town Center last night, as a follow-up to a February worksession on the topic. But the proposals outlined did not address the bane of most Town Center business owners - the competitive disadvantage of 24/7 paid parking in Rockville Town Square versus the free parking available at competing developments like Downtown Crown and Rio/Washingtonian Center.

Mayor Bridget Donnell Newton and councilmembers considered how to improve wayfinding signage, change City-controlled parking meter enforcement policies (such as using yellow cards for a 5-minute grace period), how sign ordinance limitations might prevent more effective parking signage, whether a consultant should be hired and at what cost, returning the popular Wednesday farmers market to Regal Row, restoring holiday banners to the Town Center area, and having regular consultation meetings with business owners and other stakeholders.

But, invited to the podium by Newton to share their initial reactions, several Town Center business owners said the discussion avoided the main issue - the cost of parking in the garages at Rockville Town Square.

"You don't understand how much we're suffering," said the owner of California Tortilla on E. Montgomery Avenue in Regal Row. "We're basically slaves now," to a parking situation that's deterring business, and the high rents they must pay, he said.

Mellow Mushroom owner Danny Trahan suggested the City save money on hiring a consultant, and listen to the business owners instead. Trahan estimated that the current paid parking situation is costing Rockville Town Square businesses $5 million in sales. By allowing free parking at least during strategic times like evenings and weekends, the increased revenue could refill City coffers and pay for free parking, Trahan argued.

Trahan said he is willing to put up money to help solve the problem, if selling advertising space in garages and in the public square would help offset the cost of free parking. He suggested building a dome structure in the square to allow activities to continue during inclement weather, as has been done in Reston Town Center. Advertising could be sold on the structure, as well as on signs in the garages, he said. Trahan said he would be willing to purchase signage in both locations to promote Mellow Mushroom.

Scott Feldman of Giuseppe's Pizza, where some patrons have stopped going because of parking costs and unfair meter ticketing policies, asked the Mayor and Council to compare the activity in Rockville Town Center on weekend nights to that in Downtown Crown and Rio. "You'll see a big difference," he promised. Many have cited the lack of wait times at Town Center restaurants on weekend nights, in comparison to hour-waits at Rio and Crown, as a metric showing how paid parking is killing business.

But landlords in the Town Center were not prepared to cut them a break at the February worksession. None attended last night's discussion. In February, several noted that there's no such thing as free parking. "If [merchants] want to have free parking, they can have free parking, It's just a matter of paying us," Duball, LLC president and principal Marc Dubick, developer of the Upton/Cambria Hotel and Suites building, said then.

Councilmember Julie Palakovich Carr made a very good point, that there are more garages than the ones in Rockville Town Square in Town Center, and that it would be difficult to have a free parking policy that covered all of them.

But the City is in a real parking pickle that could threaten the future of its Town Center, business owners said. Customer counts were down during the Duball construction, and now Hometown Holidays taste ticket redemption is dwindling in recent years, as well, the owner of Ben and Jerry's said. While the City can refuse to take action on the unpopular paid parking that gives Rockville a bad reputation in the region, he acknowledged, it risks finding many of its downtown shops "boarded up" if they go out of business as a result.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Redevelopment of Rockshire Village Center could create parking problems in Rockville

Redevelopment of the Rockshire Village Center in Rockville as a residential community could create serious parking problems in and around the Rockshire neighborhood. A developer preparing to submit plans to the City of Rockville for the property has met with Concerned Citizens for Rockshire Center, a grassroots organization representing community concerns.

Out of those recent discussions, five issues of mutual interest to residents and the developer were identified:

(1) Retail space
(2) Parking on the site
(3) Traffic
(4) School capacity
(5) Overall design, layout, and land use

A CCFRC representative spoke about the parking issue before the Mayor and Council Monday evening. He said loss of the ample surface parking currently on the Rockshire Center site would create problems for the adjacent Korean Presbyterian Church next door on Hurley Avenue. The church has a very small parking area, and has relied for years on the shopping center for overflow parking.

Wooton High School students are also currently able to utilize some of the spaces at the shopping center. Should a future development there have limited parking, this would understandably create parking issues for the surrounding area.

The shopping center is located at the intersection of Wooton Parkway and Hurley Avenue.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Rockville town center merchants, landowners differ on parking issues

Most people can agree that Rockville's town center is probably not known in the region as the most pleasant, easiest and cheapest place to park. But how to solve that problem - or the perception of it - isn't as as easy to agree upon. A special Mayor and Council worksession last night brought stakeholders together for an open conversation on the topic.

"There is no such thing as free parking," a representative of Rockville Town Square owner Federal Realty said. Lighting, maintenance and ground lease payments are just a few of the expenses involved in providing parking, he explained. He described the current parking policy at RTS as a "very generous first two hour validation program," taken advantage of by 80% of garage patrons. That is "effectively, free parking," he added.

However, many competing lifestyle centers in the County are offering parking that is literally free parking, much to the chagrin of businesses in the town center. And, yes, there is validation, but you usually have to buy something in order to get it, which means it is not "free." 

In contrast, Federal Realty's Pike & Rose development gives you the two hours free without needing a validation. Downtown Bethesda, as unpleasant as parking is there, provides free parking in Montgomery County garages on weekends. Rockville Town Square doesn't. And Rio/Washingtonian Center and Downtown Crown provide the best deal of all: free parking all day, every day.

But becoming more competitive is easy or challenging, depending upon who you ask.

Federal Realty pointed out that fees alone rarely cover the full cost of parking for a property owner. "What we don't collect," the representative said, "is essentially paid for by the leaseholders themselves." Changing parking policies requires a lot of research, and a long-term commitment to that new policy, he warned.

Mellow Mushroom's Danny Trahan offered a simpler solution. Trahan, who lives in Virginia, said the evolution of parking policies at Reston Town Center are very instructive for Rockville's parking dilemma. Reston originally had free parking, he said, until the policy was abused by Metro commuters. When Reston Town Center then instituted paid parking, business declined severely, he recalled.

Reston then changed to charging for parking only between 4:00-10:00 AM. The result? Business was "booming again," Trahan recounted. Taking into account the daytime demand for parking related to local government and the courthouse, Trahan suggested implementing a Reston-type policy, but charging until 4:00 PM on weekdays. After that, and all day on weekends, parking would be free. 

"Heavily market that" on Facebook and in newspaper ads, Trahan advised. In response to Federal Realty's concern about the reality of parking costs, Trahan predicted that under his suggested policy, the firm would recoup "millions of dollars of revenue you guys are losing." 

Trahan also proposed that Federal Realty allow merchants to advertise in the garages, to generate revenue to cover parking costs. He offered to buy a Mellow Mushroom sign and install it in the garage. Another novel idea Trahan threw out at the meeting was to relocate the library, and fill its space with more retail to activate the square at all hours.

"We're at a competitive disadvantage on Saturdays," a Regal Row merchant said. And a former draw at lunchtime on Wednesdays, the farmers market and live music, has been lost to Dawson's Market during the construction of the Duball project across the street. A representative of neighboring CremCafe said that the loss of the surface lot the Duball project was built on has made it harder to hire workers. They can't afford the price of parking, and "not everyone is using the Metro," he said. The owner of Ben & Jerry's said "customer counts plummeted" during the Duball construction, and today are "not nearly as much as they were prior to construction."

Scott Feldman of the legendary Giuseppe's Pizza on Regal Row told the Mayor and Council that some of his longtime customers "don't come in anymore" after finding a "$40 ticket on their windshield." Or, as one of his customers termed it, "that little surprise we had waiting when we got outside." Combine that with competition that can offer free parking, and Rockville town center businesses suffer as a result. "The problem is," Feldman said, local consumers "have too many other choices." Read the pizzeria's Yelp page, and you'll find that when customers aren't raving about the pizza, they're warning that "parking is a ***** during business hours."

Regal Cinemas has been hit as hard as anybody - and not for a lack of trying. The cineplex recently renovated its auditoriums, adding reclining seats. Ordinarily, a representative of the theater said, adding recliners would initially boost sales by 50-60%. In Rockville, the fancy chairs have only generated a 20% increase in business, he said, "something that is concerning." He also said that the theater had to end its free family matinee screenings, because "nobody wants to pay $12 to see a free movie."

But the perception of parking problems may be killing business as much as the practical experience of parking. "I hate to come into downtown Rockville. I can never find a place to park," Rockville Chamber of Commerce board member Brian Barkley said friends often tell him. Barkley said it's actually not that hard to find parking if, like him, you know where it is. He recommended better wayfinding to address that issue.

That still doesn't solve the cost issue, though. "You can't have everybody around you with free parking on the weekends, and you don't have it," Barkley said.

A town center merchant who lives in Potomac said "nobody in my neighborhood comes here," they go to downtown Bethesda instead. And a representative of VisArts said Rockville town center "has a reputation that it's not a friendly place to go. You have to pay for parking."

"If [merchants] want to have free parking, they can have free parking, It's just a matter of paying us," Duball, LLC president and principal Marc Dubick said of his garage in the Upton/Cambria Hotel and Suites building he developed. Echoing Federal Realty's accounting concerns, Dubick noted that "we have lenders, and we have to pay our obligations." He also noted that his garage is only 17% occupied on Friday nights currently. 

That could change when World of Beer opens, though.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014


With the holiday shopping season fast approaching, and nearby retail meccas Westfield Montgomery Mall, RIO and Downtown Crown beckoning with free parking, Rockville Town Square has announced a Holiday Parking Experience starting November 26, 2014.

In plain terms, parking will be FREE nightly after 6:00 PM, and all-day on weekends from November 26 to January 4, 2015. That should make those 2000 parking spaces a lot more appealing for shoppers, as well as those attending the annual Tree Lighting and Holiday Open House, which will be on Thursday, December 4, from 6:30 to 9:00 PM.

Don't thank the Monopoly guy - thank property owner Federal Realty, surely concerned about keeping the holiday cheer high at a retail center where several tenants have closed in recent months. A second Federal Realty property, Pike & Rose, is also a competitor with Rockville Town Square, but does not have many retail stores open yet. Pike & Rose offers 2 hours of free parking to guests.

I know free parking sure makes me more likely to dine and shop at Rockville Town Square.

Monday, February 18, 2013


Exciting news from Courthouse Center at 12 N. Washington Street: A new restaurant, East Dumpling House, is coming soon, a short walk for residents in the town center and nearby neighborhood.