Rockville city council builds new master plan to update Town Center


Claire Yu

Roughly a 10 to 15 minute walk from RM, the Rockville Town Center has a convenient location that allows for students to visit the area during lunch and after school.

Rockville’s city council is working on a new master plan to update the Rockville Town Center. Because RM is within the southern boundary of the Town Center’s planning area, the council is specifically seeking feedback from RM students.

The reason for the update, according to an agenda filed by the city council, is that despite its popularity, the Town Center’s “retail continues to struggle and compete regionally.” The council also seeks to improve pedestrian safety, increase the number of amenities, reduce carbon emissions, mitigate the divisive effect of Rockville Pike and the Metro and CSX rail lines and create a more welcoming environment overall.

“It feels a little bit down and the stores are always opening and closing. There’s just some shops where I don’t really get why they’re there,” freshman Taylor Morrison said. “Especially the boutiques, nobody’s going in and buying anything, and it’s all very overpriced, and it just seems to be a very silly thing to have there when it’s usually a place for teenagers to hang out.”

“I feel like it’s outdated in a sense,” junior Udy Mbanaso said. “When I go to Pike & Rose, for example… it’s like modernized.”

The Town Center—or RTC, as RM knows it—is well-known as a go-to location among RM students for studying or hanging out with friends. The Rockville Memorial Library, Panera, Starbucks, the ice rink and The Spot, for instance, are important social hubs.

“Normally I think I go to the Town Center I think at least once a week,” Morrison said. “I’ve gone to the library a lot to rent a study room and watch movies with my friends. Or, I’ll get food before I go study with someone at the library.”

This is the habit of many others at RM. “I go there once or twice a week, and it’s like really fun,” Kirubel said. “I normally go there for sushi at Dawson’s, or just to go ice skating, or at the play center. It’s really fun—library, all that.”

Students also have varying opinions on safety concerns in the Town Center. “I think they could make it safer for the students here,” freshman Bethel Kirubel said. 

“In terms of safety I’ve never felt super unsafe,” Mbanaso said. 

Public input for the update began in April with four interactive listening sessions. Primary public engagement efforts will occur between May and October, and afterwards the Comprehensive Planning Division (CPD) will compile feedback into a draft report to present to the community. The CPD aims to prepare the update for approval from Rockville’s mayor and city council by April 2024.

In addition, CPD staff plan to conduct community outreach through various outlets. Residents who register to get involved with the update on the EngageRockville webpage can receive monthly emails regarding the plan’s development and opportunities for engagement. A major aspect of outreach will include discussions with stakeholders such as property owners and managers, workers and employees and students at local schools. Surveys, postcards, door hangers and more will also be sent out to residents in the area.