The “pink bank” building in Rockville’s Town Center should be spared the wrecking ball and preserved for its historic value, according to the city’s Historic District Commission.
On Thursday, the commission recommended historic designation for the distinctive pink and teal rectangle at 255 N. Washington St. The building, which first opened in 1964, currently houses a Bank of America branch on the ground floor.
Kettler of McLean, Va., an apartment development and management company which owns the property through an LLC, has been working on plans to build condominiums on the property since at least 2006. At the time, Bank of America renewed its lease for the building, according to a Kettler representative who spoke at the commission meeting, but now the bank plans to vacate the property in November.
Under city law, before Kettler could demolish the building, the commission had to study it and see if it qualified for historic designation.
The commission recommended designating the building as historic for several reasons, including the way the building represents Rockville’s 60’s-era pattern of tearing down the city’s old downtown and building new, modern buildings. The building is also a distinctive visual feature of the neighborhood, commissioners said.
Though not everyone likes the bank building’s conspicuous mid-century aesthetic, commission members said it was their job to base their decision on specific criteria for historic designation, not whether or not most people currently consider the building “pretty.”
“We’re too eager to throw our buildings in the dumpster just because we don’t like them,” said Craig Moloney, chairman of the commission. “We’ve done that with some of our Victorian buildings, and now we cherish them.”
Kettler did not respond to calls for comment on how the potential historic designation would affect its plans for redevelopment.
Robin Ziek, preservation planner for the City of Rockville, said hopefully the city will work with developers to figure out how the bank building can be preserved while the property — much of which is a parking lot — is redeveloped.
“The point is not that it gets developed and nothing can ever happen there again,” she said. “What we’d be hoping is for a win-win situation. ... This is, we hope, the start of a new conversation.”
The commission’s recommendation for historic designation will now go to the Mayor and Council for authorization to file it as a zoning action, but Ziek said the timeline for their consideration of the proposal had not yet been determined.