Rockville Town Square Fears Closure Due to Debt, Multiple Stores Shut Down


Photo courtesy of Dan Reed

Rockville Town Square is the central area of Rockville Town Center and is where the ice skating rink is during the winter. After numerous stores closed down, city officials and residents have discussed ways to save the remaining businesses.

Esther Frances, Print Copy Editor

Since 2006, Rockville Town Center has provided residents with a diverse mix of restaurants, shops and seasonal festivities. But due to a decline in customers and a lack of revenue, Dawson’s Market, Mellow Mushroom and Pandora Seafood and Bar all closed their doors this fall, the latest in a trend of closures.

One problem keeping consumers from Rockville Town Center is parking. Shoppers can spend two hours downtown free of charge, but only if their parking ticket is validated by a local shop or restaurant. Necessary validation is lowering activity compared to other shopping centers such as Pike and Rose–one that has free two hour parking without validation, according to an Oct. 5 tweet by ABC7  reporter Kevin Lewis.

All three parking garages in Town Square are owned by the City of Rockville and have accumulated over $30,000,000 in debt, Rockville Mayor Bridget Donnell Newton told the Rampage. The City of Rockville and Federal Realty Investment Trust have been working to get free two-hour parking without validation, and Mayor Newton is also working to get free parking after 5 p.m. for the holidays, though no decisions have been made.

“If that would work, that might give a boost to people who come to the Town Center [because] some people forget [to get their ticket validated],” Mayor Newton said. “All of this would encourage people to come back downtown.”

Around 400 people showed up to a town hall Oct. 9 at Dawson’s Market to ask Mayor Newton questions after the local grocery store announced its closing Oct. 2. Many Rockville residents expressed concerns and distress about the upcoming vacancy of the main grocery store in Rockville Town Square.

Rockville Economic Development, Inc. (REDI) has partnered with Mayor Newton and the city council to create the Small Business Impact Fund which will help support small business in Rockville Town Center. This plan includes financial support that businesses can apply for and the pilot program’s initial funds include $430,000 committed to stabilizing businesses, according to the REDI website.

“We want to create a thriving Town Center which will support the entire community but especially the residents who live in the Town Center area,” Mayor Newton said. “It’s a decision that people have to make for themselves; whether they want a downtown, then they have to be willing to shop downtown.”

Dawson’s Market opened in Rockville Town Center in 2012, though the grocery store has been in business since the 1980s, according to the Dawson’s Market website.

“This was an extremely difficult decision to make,” owner Rick Hood said in an Oct. 2 press release. “We are grateful for this community, Federal Realty Investment Trust and especially the local farmers and vendors. Most importantly, we are thankful for our stewards for their hard work and dedication over the years.”

Though Dawson’s Market willingly closed their doors, Pandora’s Seafood House and Bar was officially evicted Oct. 29 due to unpaid rent checks. The restaurant was taken to court by Rockville Town Square owners Federal Realty Investment Trust in August and won restitution worth more than $159,000.

The third establishment to close in Rockville Town Square this fall was Mellow Mushroom, a pizza restaurant which opened May 2016. The owner did not publish a reason for closing.

“ Those were the places that I used to hangout with my friends in middle school,” junior Ellie Geddes said. “Seeing it leave makes me [really] sad.”