Rockville City Council members who often were unanimous on one this week: Monday’s announcement that a lease had been signed to bring Dawson’s Market to Rockville Town Square is a big win for the city.
“It’s fantastic,” Mayor Phyllis Marcuccio said. “It’s been four years in the making—like a Cecil B. DeMille extravaganza.”
Councilman Piotr Gajewski, who is opposing Marcuccio for mayor in the Nov. 8 city election, agreed that the lease was a long time in coming.
The owners of Richmond, Va.-based Ellwood Thompson’s Local Market .
“We’re thrilled,” Gajewski said. “It seems like it’s a very good fit for Rockville. It seems like it’s very community-oriented with the name they’ve picked.”
But the name—a nod to the family that once owned a farm with a homestead near what is now Town Center—and where the name is posted could still be a point of contention between the city and Federal Realty Investment Trust, which owns and operates Town Square.
“I think the name is being couched in the words of ‘proposed name,’” said Gajewski, who added that he favored naming the market for William B. Gibbs. “But I have no problem with the name.”
A month ago, when , he said that . A sign on the pavilion would give the market greater visibility than afforded by its location at the edge of the retail development, away from the bustling sidewalks of Maryland Avenue, he said.
In July, Federal Realty officials said that the grocer would not sign a lease without the naming rights.
While he is fine with the name, Gajewski said that the council must sign off on the naming rights.
A grocery store was to play a vital role in when the retail and residential development was first conceived. The Great Atlantic and Pacific Tea Company, Inc.—better known as A&P—signed a 20-year lease in 2007, but never opened a store. The company filed for bankruptcy late last year.
Now, amid a recession that has contributed to turnover at Town Square, the city is counting on an anchor store to bring stability and a return on Rockville’s investment in the fledgling retail district.
“I think we ought to name the pavilion Dawson’s Market Pavilion,” Councilman Mark Pierzchala said.
“We need this market to be successful,” he added.
Councilman John Britton agreed.
“We needed that spot filled in,” said Britton, who also favors giving the pavilion naming rights to the market.
“Calling it Dawson’s Market, I think it makes it more palatable for lots of people,” he said.
The council “worked very hard, even to the last minute” to shore up details in support of the lease, from and to Federal Realty to pushing for better management of VisArts, Britton said.
Marcuccio said she is reluctant to relinquish yet another aspect of Town Square.
“What are we going to have as far as negotiable opportunities if we give that away?” she said.
Councilwoman Bridget Donnell Newton, who used the grocery store site as the setting for last week, said she doesn’t think putting the market’s name on the pavilion is necessary.
“If we’re really struggling economically, then maybe we should’ve bid that out and maybe wants the name, or somebody else. Maybe it becomes a money maker for the city.”
For now, Ellwood Thompson’s has gone forward with a lease without resolution of the name issue.
“Maybe they, in the sense that the city has been so responsive to the other requests and that they’ve gotten such a good reception from the community, maybe it’s not as important to them right now,” Newton said. “I’d like to think that.”