At the Oct. 14, mayor and council meeting, Rockville’s representatives voted 3-2 to allow the demolition of the historic “Pink Bank” at 255 N. Washington St.
This vote was accomplished through the use of a flaw in Rockville’s historic designation process, which allows the mayor and council to cut short the normal public hearing process, preventing public hearings before both the Planning Commission and the mayor and council.
I urge the citizens of Rockville to review the meeting’s discussion and ultimate decision online as I believe the decision made that evening has implications for how the public’s voice will be heard in Rockville in the future.
However, this is only a symptom of a larger issue: the misuse of historic preservation in Rockville. Several council members claim to be in favor of historic preservation, yet their actions indicate not an interest in preservation of history, but rather, preservation of specific architectural styles that meet their own tastes.
This is a devastating way to view historic preservation, as we should have learned during the gutting of our town center through urban renewal in the 1960s. By eliminating one of the last physical reminders of that era, we are also engaging in a whitewashing of our history, and as we all should know by now, to forget past mistakes is to be doomed to repeat them.
Furthermore, the city will miss out on a key economic development opportunity. In 30 years, I expect we will be gutting our town center again, when the current architectural and planning trends fade.
The Pink Bank represents something unique in our community that could set the city apart for years to come.
In fact, the Maryland Economic Development Association’s fall conference this year focused on place-making. According to MDBIZ News, a publication of the Maryland Department of Business & Economic Development that covered the conference, two takeaways from this gathering of the region’s top economic developers were that “a community’s uniqueness fuels growth because ‘the more your community looks like everyone else’s, the less people will want to go there’ (Ed McMahon, Urban Land Institute)” and “investing in historic preservation yields lasting long-term results in fostering place, but it needs to follow a long-term plan.”
Rockville’s Historic Resources Management Plan states as its goal: identify and protect the Historic Resources as visual and physical reminders of the themes and periods in the city’s development.
Therefore, I ask Rockville’s citizens to consider these important issues, and make their voices heard.
Jessica Reynolds, Rockville
The writer is a Rockville Historic District Commissioner, and an economic development professional.