August 21, 2004

Pioneer Developer Rouse To Be Acquired

The Rouse Company -- developer of Boston's Faneuil Hall, New York's South Street Seaport and the planned integrated town of Columbia Md.; a firm "well known for a series of ambitious projects that brought pedestrians back to neglected urban neighborhoods," as the New York Times put it-- will be acquired by major shopping center owner General Growth Properties (pending Rouse stockholder approval).

A General Growth executive told the Times that the merger will offer major U.S. and European retail chains "one-stop shopping" when they want to expand.

Oh, great. Now EVERY shopping center EVERYWHERE can have the same exact stores.

Rouse "helped revitalize urban cores across America, including Baltimore's Inner Harbor ... proving that the grim industrial waterfront could become a shining tourist attraction," said hometown paper the Baltimore Sun. "And with Columbia, Rouse made real a vision of integration - involving race, income and building types - on 15,000 acres of farmland in Howard County."

This was a pretty radical idea for its time (and still not that common in our own time). "Columbia, Maryland was opened in 1967 -- the same year Maryland legalized interracial marriages," notes Reuters. "It was viewed as an experiment where people of all races and socio-economic backgrounds could live together."

What will happen to that pioneering Rouse vision that focused on pedestrian-friendly retailing? In one hopeful sign, General Growth President and COO Robert Michaels told reporters that some Rouse-owned malls could become even more valuable by adding restaurants, theaters and stores that open onto sidewalks, the Times said.

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