Council to Consider Branding a Bridge
Pedestrian bridge over Hungerford Drive would advertise Town Square.
The pedestrian bridge connecting the Rockville Metro station to Town Center would double as a welcome sign and advertisement to motorists and pedestrians on Hungerford Drive under a proposal the City Council is scheduled to consider on Monday.
Federal Realty Investment Trust is proposing that lettering reading “Rockville Town Square” be added to both sides of the bridge, which is owned by the Washington Metropolitan Transit Authority.
The sign “would be illuminated with subtle LED lights,” according to a city staff report.
Federal Realty (or “FRIT”), which owns and operates the residential and retail district in the heart of Town Center, has consulted with WMATA, the report states.
“WMATA reports that the FRIT proposal is relatively unique,” the report states. “All of the rail stations offer advertising inside the stations for a fee and WMATA has installed public art outside of the Takoma Station. Lettering on the pedestrian bridge, outside of the station, advertising Rockville Town Square is a different approach.”
City staff recommends the council discuss whether to submit a letter supporting the proposal to WMATA General Manager Richard Sarles, who would make the final decision on the request.
"While WMATA considers the proposed lettering advertising, WMATA staff indicated that with involvement by the City of Rockville, they may consider the proposed lettering a public benefit and not charge the advertising fee,” the city staff report states. “The City's involvement is not a guarantee of the General Manager's approval, but does open the possibility of treating the lettering different from advertising.”
The lettering could be considered a sign, staff writes, opening the city to a number of other issues. It could require amendments to the city’s sign ordinance, which does not allow off-premises commercial signs or signs of the size being proposed.
The lettering also could require approval by the State Highway Administration and authorization by the city manager because it would be in public right-of-way, the report states. Signage in a public right-of-way for a primarily private purpose—in this case, advertising a privately-owned commercial center—has not been allowed before, the report states.
The request is part of an effort by Federal Realty to increase visibility for the retail district as an anchor grocery store and several new restaurants prepare to open in Town Square in the coming months.
The marketing effort has included the council approving naming rights for the Town Square pavilion and new signage around the shopping district, including changes to signs on the Town Square garages along Hungerford Drive.
The grocery store, Dawson’s Market, is now scheduled to open in the fall, Federal Realty recently told the city.
Duball Rockville LLC plans to build a 384,897-square-foot building in Town Center that includes a Cambria Suites Hotel, residences and street level retail space.
“Foulger-Pratt and Duball plan to market their projects as part of Rockville Town Square, recognizing that they can take advantage of the efforts FRIT has made to market Town Square and make it a destination,” the staff report on the bridge lettering states. “If, over time, more of downtown Rockville becomes known generally as Town Square, some of the concerns about public versus private benefit may be resolved.”