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Federal Realty to Take Over Town Square Garages

Free validated parking and new rates are coming to the retail district's garages.

The days of standing in front of the pay stations in the Rockville Town Square garage and trying to remember your space number are coming to an end. 

Beginning Sept. 1, Federal Realty Investment Trust will assume operation and maintenance of the three garages under a 50-year lease approved unanimously by the City Council on Monday.

Retailers and restaurants will be able to offer paying customers free parking validation for up to two hours.

Free parking coupons issued by the city must be used by Aug. 31, said Robin McBride, vice president and Mid-Atlantic region chief operating officer for Federal Realty, which owns and operates Town Square. The coupons will not be honored after that time.

The garages will continue to offer monthly and commuter parking, McBride said.

"We will have the ability to sell monthly passes similar to how the city did it previously," she said. Federal Realty also will be able to offer cards to frequent visitors, similar to Metro's SmartTrip cards.

Parking rates will be as follows:

With purchase validation:

  • One hour: Free.
  • Two hours: Free.
  • Three hours: $2.
  • Four hours: $3.
  • Five hours: $4.
  • Daily maximum: $10.

Without validation:

  • One hour: $2.
  • Two hours: $3
  • Three hours: $4
  • Four hours: $5
  • Five hours: $6
  • Daily maximum: $10

Federal Realty announced in a news release on Tuesday that it also plans to add amenities to the garages in the next several months, including a dry cleaning pickup and drop-off, a car wash, an electric car charging station and a Zipcar rental station.

“These new amenities are part of a larger effort to establish a more user-friendly and convenient ‘one stop’ experience for visitors and commuters at Rockville Town Square,” the release said.

The payment kiosks in place in the stations will be replaced with “typical retail parking equipment,” McBride said in an interview outside the council chambers on Monday night.

“Merchants love it,” she said. “They’re very excited. They’ve wanted this for a long time.”

The system will have gates and will be similar to those in place at county parking decks in Silver Spring and Bethesda, McBride said. Federal Realty has studied vehicle queuing to determine the best places to locate the gates, she said.

Customers will pay upon exit, either on foot or from their cars at the gates. Customers will no longer have to remember their parking space numbers. The red and green lights indicating if a space is occupied will remain.

Colonial Parking, Inc., will handle the on-site management for the parking garage on behalf of Federal Realty. The parking management office is located on the bottom floor of the garage that opens onto Maryland Avenue and Town Square Plaza.

Federal Realty hopes that the new arrangement will draw more visitors to the retail district in the heart of Town Center.

Turning over management of the garages so that Federal Realty could offer free validated parking was also seen as a key ingredient to attracting .

City officials hope that the move will attract shoppers to a project that Rockville has much invested in while freeing the city from the costly burden of managing the garages.

"We didn't belong in the garage business," Mayor Phyllis Marcuccio said.

Jeff Hawkins August 16, 2011 at 06:38 PM
Fantastic news!!!! I truly believe this will be tremendous help for the Town Center. The extra ammentities offered sound great also. A great job by all who were involved in making this happen!!
Doug R August 16, 2011 at 09:02 PM
OMG Colonial Parking!? I have worked in several office complexes that use Colonial to manage their parking decks, and they're not usually very efficient. I lament the loss of the kiosks, which I like, as they are quick and easy and don't depend on someone inside a booth gabbing on their cell phone to complete a transaction....the prices seem reasonable, however, as who doesn't usually make some sort of purchase while they're in Town Square? I rarely go there without getting at least a bite somewhere, or a coffee, or a haircut....lol. I hope they are very smart about where the gates and booths are placed--that has the potential to be a mess in the parking deck you access off of N Washington, where I usually park. I agree with Jeff though, the added amenities sound really nice. Cautiously optimistic. :)
Doug R August 16, 2011 at 09:17 PM
Don't these free validation systems usually only last a few years though? After a period of time I've always seen the management company collect all the fees in the schedule, thereby making it more profitable (e.g. like Pentagon Row, Bethesda, etc.). So given this move, I'd expect the second tier of prices to be in effect in a few years...and for residents to lose the free two hours with validation in the future...
Peter Mork August 16, 2011 at 11:10 PM
I think you raise an important issue. At this point, who gets to decide when the "free two hours with validation" promotional rate will expire? Federal Realty or M&C?
Will August 16, 2011 at 11:12 PM
So is all day for a dollar on Saturday and free on Sunday gone? If so I will not go as often. It makes going to the library expensive. Sometimes I like to go to the toy store. I do not know in advance if I will find something to buy. I do not think I would pay $2 just for the privilege of finding out. This is really a dramatic increase in fees unless something was left out of the list.
Piotr Gajewski August 17, 2011 at 12:14 AM
Peter et al, FRIT is in charge of all pricing. They are in the perfect position to get this right, as their properties will suffer if the pricing is too high. If they see merchants failing they will want to stimulate business by giving away free parking. If they have full occupancy and merchants are thriving, they can increase parking charges appropriately: capitalism at its finest, and the government is out of the parking business that it should have never been in.
Dick Power August 17, 2011 at 12:14 AM
I think a few details were left out. Good point about this not lasting, though. Where profits are involved, the price usually goes up as far as "the traffic will allow." I don't see that necessarily every store will offer free parking validation. Will a cup of Java at Starbucks get you 2 hours of parking? A doughnut? After 6PM for a buck is out the window? A movie and dinner is more than 2 hours. Lately, when I try to enter downtown, turning onto Middle Lane from 355 it takes me at least 2 light cycles to get onto middle Lane (and to the next red light). I've started going back to the strip malls on 355, because getting into downtown is just more hassle than it's worth to me.
Dick Power August 17, 2011 at 12:15 AM
I think a few details were left out. Good point about this not lasting, though. Where profits are involved, the price usually goes up as far as "the traffic will allow." I don't see that necessarily every store will offer free parking validation. Will a cup of Java at Starbucks get you 2 hours of parking? A doughnut? After 6PM for a buck is out the window? A movie and dinner is more than 2 hours. Lately, when I try to enter downtown, turning onto Middle Lane from 355 it takes me at least 2 light cycles to get onto middle Lane (and to the next red light). I've started going back to the strip malls on 355, because getting into downtown is starting to be more hassle than it's worth to me.
Piotr Gajewski August 17, 2011 at 01:32 AM
According to what FRIT explicitly represented at the M&C meeting, a stick of gum from CVS (and yes, they also specifically mentioned one doughnut) gets you validated. The intent is to have everyone park free, but encourage some purchase, any purchase.
amarynth August 17, 2011 at 02:09 AM
According to Rockville Town Square's Facebook page, people will have to pay for parking in the garages 24 hours a day, every day. I think the people who will be most impacted are the happy hour or weekend bar/restaurant crowd -- they're used to paying $1 to park all night after 6pm or on Saturday. Not to mention that it will be much more expensive to leave a car overnight if they over-imbibe!
Sean R. Sedam August 17, 2011 at 02:49 AM
amarynth is right. Rockville Town Square linked to the above article on its Facebook page and has been answering visitor's questions. You can find answers in the comment thread under a link to the article here: http://www.facebook.com/RockvilleTownSq
Jeff August 17, 2011 at 01:10 PM
I hope these calculations have been done correctly. I have a number of friends who come to Rockville from Bethesda for dinner, and they cite the ease and price of parking as the primary reason. Tripling the price, or more, of parking might send them back to Bethesda. If we lose $80 to local business so we can get $2 more in parking fees, the Town Center is going to suffer.
Dick Stoner August 17, 2011 at 01:15 PM
Perhaps Federal will allow the eating / drinking establishments to offer a 12 hour ticket, or otherwise accommodate overnight parking. Clydes in Chevy Chase allows tickets to be stamped that seem to be open ended. Don't forget that there is still meter parking on the street for quick visits to the library, toy store, etc. I think the Merchants each decide how much free parking to give their customers via a monthly credit from Federal on their rent bills. The Grocer will clearly have many 1 hour customers, while the bars and restaurants will have 2,3, 4 hour customers. With open mike at M & C Meetings, the community can provide feedback on how well the new system works during the next few months and years. As we are being reminded at the Federal level, there is no such thing as a " free asset" and the users should pay whether it's directly or via the merchants that they patronize. Let's give this a chance and support the merchants at Town Square, including the Grocer which seems ready to offer an up-to-date and innovative local food option that is not connected to a far-away public corporation. Buy Local, Be Local and stay involved !!
Jeff August 17, 2011 at 03:04 PM
I guess I don't see how this is much of a help to the Town Center. For the majority of visitors, the only change will be an increase in parking fees. Sure, Zipcar and charging stations are nice but they will be used by a small minority of visitors. The rates seem fairly reasonable overall, but the fact is that this takes what was a "positive" about Rockville compared to neighboring communities and eliminates it.
Dodge Wells August 18, 2011 at 08:41 PM
Councilmember Gajewski: Your reassurances in your post at 9:32 on Tuesday ("According to what FRIT explicitly represented at the M&C meeting, a stick of gum from CVS (and yes, they also specifically mentioned one doughnut) gets you validated. The intent is to have everyone park free, but encourage some purchase, any purchase") is directly contradicted by your earlier comment posted at 8:14 ("FRIT is in charge of all pricing. . . . . If they have full occupancy and merchants are thriving, they can increase parking charges") You also overlook the impact on nearby businesses not part of Town Square. By by Regal Theater..
amarynth August 18, 2011 at 10:51 PM
I think that the problem that Regal might have is RTS patrons filling up their lot (which would cost $1.50 to park all night after 5pm vs $2-$10 to park for more than 2 hours at an RTS lot with purchase validation). If their lot is full, theater-goers would have to pay $4 or more to park at an RTS lot while they see a movie, since they won't be able to get purchase validation.
amarynth August 22, 2011 at 07:04 PM
There's some more info at http://www.facebook.com/RockvilleTownSq?sk=app_128953167177144. Looks like parking will be free from September 1st until they get the equipment installed.

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