Americana Centre: Home-Owning from a Different View

Spring 2013

This early model of the Americana Centre shows protected pathways and public spaces nestled within the community of hi-rise apartments, town homes and garden apartments.

This early model of the Americana Centre shows protected pathways and public spaces nestled within the community of hi-rise apartments, town homes and garden apartments.

Situated prominently at one of Rockville’s busiest intersections, the Americana Centre, which opened in 1972, brought new housing options to downtown Rockville. A modern community designed by Carl M. Freeman, the Americana Centre offered hi-rise living a midst town homes and garden-terrace apartments. The innovative development ushered in a new era of residential housing that fulfilled design and planning goals and created a distinctively modern multi-family community. Less well known, perhaps, is the fact that the American Centre was a key element of Rockville’s Mid-City Urban Renewal program. While few vestiges of Rockville’s grand renewal plan survive today, the American Centre stands in marked contrast as a vibrant successful community.

Although Rockville grew exponentially during the 1950s, its central business district suffered from economic decline, traffic congestion, inadequate parking, and conditions of blight. Early attempts to counter this decline failed, and in the early 1960s, city leaders sought radical change through urban renewal to transform the central city into a modern county seat. Urban renewal brought sweeping changes to Rockville’s downtown as the city acquired retail and commercial properties, demolished buildings and homes, and changed street patterns. Project objectives centered on revitalization of the downtown area, improving the flow of pedestrian and automobile traffic and creating a complex of stores, offices, public spaces and high density residential units “so that the Mid-City Urban Renewal Area may serve as a focal point for the entire community.”

In 1968, Rockville selected Carl M. Freeman and Associates, an established developer of modern homes and garden apartments in the Washington area, to design and construct a high-density housing complex on a strategically sited six-acre parcel. For this project, he was tasked with developing a community that conformed to Mid-City design guidelines and included hi-rise and garden-terrace apartments with surface and underground parking. Freeman succeeded with a design for the Americana Centre that offered suburban style living in a modern urban setting. His modernist design encompassed parking, walkways and seating areas, as well as recreational amenities, including a stylish community pool, saunas, and rooftop sun deck. When complete the community was promoted as “just minutes away from everywhere important” to capitalize on its urban setting.

In 1972, the Americana Centre converted from rental property to condominium ownership and since then has offered residents both “suburban living and urban convenience.” Over the last forty years, the landscape around the Americana Centre has seen many changes and longtime residents have had views of Rockville’s evolving identity from the two hi-rise apartment buildings. Today the community originally designed to link residents to the Rockville Mall, the 1971 Library and future mass-transit, is now within walking distance of Town Center, City Hall, and Rockville Metro station. Americana residents continue to enjoy townhouses and community spaces sheltered from traffic noise by a sweeping arc of carport garages and garden apartment buildings that surround a secluded and picturesque landscaped plaza.