Picture cruising down Hungerford Drive, approaching the Rockville Metro Station.
A pedestrian bridge stretches over the six-lane road, bearing the words “Rockville Town Square.” LED lights twinkle, illuminating the capital letters leading drivers to the city’s central hub.
Rockville and Federal Realty Investment Trust are awaiting word from the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority to allow the display on the exterior of a bridge.
The mayor and City Council have yet to discuss the exact wording and style of the lettering.
“I think we haven’t actually decided whether we think it’s a good thing or a bad thing,” Mayor Phyllis Marcuccio said about the lettering proposed by Federal Realty.
The display is an effort to increase awareness of downtown Rockville’s key anchor and act as a gateway to the city’s center, according to a letter sent by former city manager Scott Ullery to Metro General Manager and CEO Richard Sarles in November.
Metro reported to city staff this proposal is relatively unique; the transportation authority offers interior advertisement for a fee and installed public art outside of the Takoma Metro station.
A representative from Federal Realty declined to comment.
Jenny Kimball, acting city manager, said Metro might treat the request differently than other advertisement requests because the city is involved.
“What’s a little bit different about this is it’s like advertising, but there’s some talk about if the city is involved, that it would have more of a public purpose, so it might be treated as not advertising,” Kimball said.
Federal Realty is talking with property owners about the request and started a conversation with Metro to move the request forward, Kimball said.
But the city could run into several problems when adding the lettering, according to a city report:
Ÿ The lettering could be characterized as a sign and Rockville prohibits signs off the premises of a business’ property;
Ÿ The lettering only could be 120 square feet in size;
Ÿ The lettering might require approval of the State Highway Administration and authorization by the city manager because it’s located in the right of way;
Ÿ And to date, signs in Rockville’s rights of way serve public, not private, purposes.
City staff suggest the mayor and council draft a text amendment specifically allowing the Rockville Town Square lettering and no other signs, according to a city report. Changing the wording to, “Welcome to Town Center” would serve as a welcome sign rather than an advertisement.
Marcuccio said she likes the notion of promoting town center in a welcoming manner.
“It ought to be pretty elegant,” she said. “Elegant like Rockville.”
The council will take up the item in coming weeks, though a specific date is yet to be determined.