I was in Rockville and Silver Spring, Maryland the other day, which gave me the opportunity to sample these two redeveloped towns in lower Montgomery County. The flavor is decidely vanilla. Silver Spring boasts a redeveloped downtown, led by anchors Discovery Communications and the American Film Institute Silver Theater, both on the main drag, Colesville Road. A block off Colesville, near the intersection of Georgia Avenue, is Ellsworth Drive, which contains a pedestrian plaza and fountain, the Majestic movie theaters, and a collection of restaurants and shops that are unrivaled for yards around, or at least as far as the nearest shopping mall. On Ellsworth and around the corner on Fenton Street, the effect is more pre-fab than fab, with eateries including Potbelly Sandwich Works, Red Lobster, Macaroni Grill, Starbucks, Panera, Ben and Jerry's, Baja Fresh, and Chick-Fil-A. Well, at least they have Chick-Fil-A, which used to be somewhat rare this close to the Mason-Dixon line.
The shops include Ann Taylor Loft, Moto Photo, Storehouse furniture, Borders Books, Bombay Company, Next Day Blinds, DSW, Mens Wearhouse, Pier 1 Imports ... is it ok if I stop now?
At the intersection of Ellsworth and Fenton is Silver Spring's version of the village green, covered, fittingly, in Astroturf.
Ellsworth's one saving grace is Cakelove
, the annex of the beloved DC bakery owned and operated by an ex-lawyer. The prices at Cakelove are startling, with cupcakes no larger than a child's fist going for $3 per, and 9" round cakes selling for $55 and up. Is my birthday coming up?
A few miles away, Rockville has undergone similar changes. Stretched out along Route 355, or Rockville Pike, it is centered by the original downtown. There, a similar Epcot Center-style redevelopment is taking place, with the Regal movie multiplex as the current focal point. Hmm, Regal, Majestic. Surrounding the Regal are, of course, another Potbelly and Ben and Jerry's, as well as Moto Photo. A few miles north is King Farm (Majestic? Regal? King?), one of the last farms in this lower part of the county, which was purchased by developers several years ago and turned in to housing for thousands. Near the north end of King Farm are some shops and eateries, including an outpost of Mayorga Coffee, the original being in downtown Silver Spring. While the Silver Spring Mayorga is dimly lit and somewhat grungy, the King Farm version is as sterile as a Jamba Juice store. To top it off, they play oldies music at high volume, which severely negates the free wi-fi experience.
Like vanilla, Ellsworth Drive, downtown Rockville and King Farm are pleasant enough, and leave absolutely no lasting impression. These developments represent the future of Silver Spring and Rockville, apparently. Maybe they represent the future of America. If so, I may consider moving to Canada for some diversity. Do they have Chick-Fil-A up there?