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.

The council is scheduled to consider the proposal as part of its agenda for at . The meeting will be broadcast live on Rockville 11.

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 in Town Square in the coming months.

The marketing effort has included the council approving around the shopping district, including changes to signs on the Town Square garages along Hungerford Drive.

The grocery store, , is now scheduled to open in the fall, Federal Realty recently told the city.

is building Rockville Metro Plaza II adjacent Town Square. It will serve as , which plans to move from Silver Spring in 2013.

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.”

Sean R. Sedam April 09, 2012 at 02:41 PM
Councilman Tom Moore tells us that this item has been removed from tonight's council agenda due to a scheduling conflict for Federal Realty. It should be on a future agenda.
Dan Cohen April 09, 2012 at 11:26 PM
No thoughts as to whether the branding idea is a good or bad one but, how is it that “Councilman” Tom Moore is so intimate with Federal Realty and its schedule that HE is the one that notifies the press that Federal Realty can not make tonight’s meeting? Shouldn’t the developer speak for itself and not through an elected councilmember?
Piotr Gajewski April 10, 2012 at 12:15 AM
Dan, As a former Council member I can guess with some degree of certainty how this unfolded: FRIT would have notified the City Manager (or City Clerk) that they cannot attend this evening. And then the CM or CC would have notified the Council simultaneously by e-mail. The reason Patch learns this from Councilmember Moore is simply because he was apparently the first to notice the story and take the time to e-mail Sean.
Sean R. Sedam April 10, 2012 at 12:18 AM
Councilman Moore was nice enough to send us an email when he saw the story. City staff later confirmed that the item was being taken off the agenda, though it was not formally announced until the beginning of Monday night's meeting.
Theresa Defino April 10, 2012 at 01:25 AM
FRIT folks were actually at the meeting tonight on another item, so it is not clear why it was pulled.


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