Yesterday, Dawson's Market celebrated its grand opening at Rockville Town Center. The long-awaited grocery store, the first under the "Dawson's" brand to be opened by Richmond, VA-based Ellwood Thompsons, prides itself on, according to its website, "a commitment to local and organic foods." That commitment is, according to Dawson's, "an extension of who we are and how we live. As a whole, we’re made up of people constantly searching for the best local products, tending to our gardens, recycling, composting, advocating, volunteering, riding our bikes, sampling chocolates and spirits, playing outdoors, and well…having fun."
That concern for the environment does not, apparently, extend to being kind to trees that might be blocking its sign. That, apparently, is no fun at all.
Rockville Patch reported earlier this week of the uproar created when Federal Realty Trust, which owns and operates the commercial parts of the Town Center development, acquiesced to a request from Dawson's to remove four trees along N. Washington Street that were apparently blocking views of one of Dawson's signs. The trees lined a sidewalk that ran alongside a parking lot directly behind the store. (Patch has before and after photos of the street.)
Putting aside the illegality of the tree-cutting (The Gazette notes that the request to approve the removal of the trees had not been approved by the City, but questions remain as to whether verbal approval had been given), the disconnect between FRT's actions, Dawson's public statements, and the attempt to brand the Town Center as a pedestrian-focused "urban environment" are striking.
Simply put, cutting down trees in order to create an unobstructed view of a parking lot is not how environmentally focused businesses behave, and it's not the actions of a entity seeking to create a neighborhood that is truly pedestrian-friendly. Rather, it's a throwback to the suburban developments of yore that featured seas of parking lots and only token greenery, and thus created rather unwelcoming pedestrian environments.
Arboreal missteps notwithstanding, the opening of Dawson's constitutes the filling of a major hole in the Rockville Town Center commercial make-up: a grocery store. The store will provide 15,000 square feet of local and organic produce, meats, cheeses, prepared foods and baked goods.
Dawson's Facebook page has a number of photos of the store and its grand opening celebration from yesterday. Here's hoping their "commitment to the community" becomes a bit more focused as the store becomes more ingrained in the Rockville community.