>The reality is that the Pink Bank is slated to be torn down. Site approval has been given to build a mix of retail, office, and 290-residential units across from Snowden Funeral Home. The owners have received their first one-year extension to build and could request a second.
During the absolutely beautiful weather last weekend, students from the University of Maryland School of Architecture holed up in the Rockville Library learning about Rockville and developing some very intriguing alternatives to demolishing the Pink Bank during a Design Charrette, co-sponsored by Peerless Rockville. The first thing they noticed is that the façade of the Town Center development has created a wall along North Washington Street which separates Town Center from the neighborhood. Keeping the Pink Bank on Beall Avenue would create an inviting entranceway to Town Center.
In fact they envision the Pink Bank as an exciting and engaging public space, not to replace or compete with Town Square, but part of a series of public spaces to draw people to the area. All of the structures under the Bank on both sides of the center elevator shaft could be removed to create a big, open public space with exterior walkways. The Farmer’s Market could be held, rain or shine, under this cover.
Since the students learned that Rockville has supporters intent on creating a science center, the students embraced this idea. The square footage needed for the Center would fill about half the space inside the Pink Bank. The Bank could become a showcase for energy efficiency and sustainability by providing a living example of how it works. Water management on the site could include green roofs with vertical plant walls that would take out the toxins and the grey water would be filtered for use in the toilets. A turret could be built with plantings. For a sun screen, terra cotta tubing could be attached to the outside of the building.
Herb Winkler, who was at the Charrette, had some cutting-edge ideas. He thought the water retention system could “feed a fountain or be available for some nifty hydraulics experiments.” He also suggested that “Solar sunscreens could provide shade and energy, with monitors to show what is being captured. An experiment would be to adjust the angle to maximize energy production.” He envisioned a six-story atrium with a cupola provided by the smaller top floor with windows that would provide natural convection cooling as well as provide a great space for a Foucault Pendulum to demonstrate the earth’s rotation.
Using the concept of “adaptive reuse”, buildings can grow and be revised rather than remain the same so saving the Pink Bank doesn’t mean saving it exactly as it is now. The building could be converted to an all-glass facade. Since the rectangular mullions are an important element, a contemporary version of the façade could be reinstalled as a lattice separated from the building. The desire would be to keep the essence but make it more usable and appealing.
The building currently is carved up into very small spaces but by taking down walls there is a fair amount of window glass. The Bank building is 20-feet wide which is “thin” but this allows light to penetrate through to create openness and transparency. This change would make the property more valuable. The duct work could be exposed and light shelves added to the interior to capture and bounce the light. The students suggested different scenarios. In the short term, the owners could keep the building the same and simply take out the interior walls to make it more valuable then work on the exterior over time.
Although it is more difficult to quantify the loss of cultural artifacts, places with rich histories beyond the shiny and new invite more economic activity. Retaining historic artifacts crafts a richer history. Surrounding development could get higher rents because of the historic bank.
Terry Lachin, a historian for Peerless Rockville, lectured about prominent lawyer Vivian Simpson who had her offices in the Pink Bank She was the first woman lawyer in Montgomery County, the first woman president of the Bar Association, and the first woman Secretary of State for Maryland. On top of all this she was a “real good lawyer”, voted one of the 20 best lawyers of the century in Maryland. Preserving the building could serve as a teaching tool about Vivian, and it was suggested she could be memorialized in the public space.
If any of the students pick the Pink Bank as a semester project, they will look at the costs involved to make the changes. They explained that we must look beyond the current expenses for the developer and evaluate the whole picture. The Bank is made out of valuable materials that have already been made and transported. Whether it is completely or partially detached from the new development on the property, it would serve as a transition to the nine-story tall new buildings. The density of the plan at Beall Avenue and North Washington Street would be lowered by keeping the Pink Bank. As it is planned now, the new development would b
e a barrier instead of a uniter for the community. The Pink Bank could help solve the problem rather than be the problem.