After beating out bidders from across the country, Ross Development and Investment and others are helping the city of Rockville, Md., turn its 30-year-old downtown redevelopment failure into a $320 million success.

Rockville Town Square is set to offer 644 condominiums; 180,000 square feet of retail space, a football-fieldsize town square; a 100,000-square-foot public library, and a 40,000-square-foot arts center. The first housing will open for occupancy in late 2006.

"We are not building a monolithic megamall," says Ross president Scott Ross, referring to a megamall development in the 1960s that failed. "We are striving to put quality in a place that deserves it after so long."

About half of the 15-acre project was an aging strip mall and the other half was a city-owned parking lot officials had been trying to redevelop. When the city gave Ross and its partners the job, it came with specific standards, says Buddy Woerner, the project architect.

"The design is about creating a pedestrian place," he adds. "It is trying to develop a sense of space."

Woerner says he took historical references from old Rockville by using Victorian and Romanesque elements and using materials and colors common in the 1800s. The city dates back to the 1700s and was incorporated in 1860. Woerner's design included a $150,000 sawtooth oak tree, which is indigenous to the area and will be the centerpiece of Town Square.

The design is meant to create a sense of community for the residents who will live in the 700- to 1,500-square-foot condominiums above the retail stores. The project is on schedule, and the first phase of condominiums is expected to be sold for $500 per square foot, Ross says.

–Erin Massey