For nearly 40 years, the Rouse Co. was like a benevolent parent, and Columbia was its pride and joy.Well it seems the answer is upon us.
But as with many families, things changed. And after the November marriage of Rouse and mall developer General Growth Properties Inc., some in Columbia are worrying that they might have been demoted from apple of the eye to misunderstood stepchild.
In 1963, James W. Rouse and his partners bought the land that would become Columbia, or "the next America" as he called it. "We must hold fast to the realization that our cities are for people," Rouse said in a 1959 speech to the Newark Conference on the Action Program for the American City in Newark, N.J. "And unless they work well for people they are not working well at all."
General Growth, which purchased Rouse in a $12.6 billion deal, isn't known for such lofty thoughts. The Chicago-based company is not in the business of planning cities or creating egalitarian neighborhoods.
"Planned communities is a business we have not been in," General Growth President John Bucksbaum said during last year's sale.
The first move General Growth Properties made was back in the spring of 2005 when they hired Thomas J. D’Alesandro IV. Prior to working at General Growth Properties, Mr. D’Alesandro was the Chief Executive Officer of the Woodlands Development Company (hired in 2003), sort of the HRD of the Woodlands. For those who don’t know, the Woodlands is a master planned community outside Houston and General Growth Properties holds about a 52% share in the Woodlands Development Corporation. Prior to the Woodlands, Mr. D’Alesandro was involved in the Reston Town Center development; he also co-authored a book about the Reston Town Center. You may also remember that Mr. D’Alesandro was in attendance at the General Growth Properties Town Hall meetings in May 2005.
By February 2006, General Growth Properties and Mr. D’Alesandro were putting things together. General Growth Properties had started work in Summerlin, Nevada, and the Woodlands, TX. Mixed use was now becoming a revenue stream for GGP. Mr. D’Alesandro was also quoted in a Business Week article.
Then in March 2006, Dennis Miller stepped down.
In the past month, GGP has been featured in two articles of interest. In the September 13, 2006 edition of the Chicago Journal :
Retail real estate giant General Growth Properties, headquartered in the West Loop at 110 N. Wacker Dr., is betting upcoming ventures on the idea that people will want to live above shopping malls.Next month, Mr. D’Alesandro will be a featured panelist at a Mixed-Use Conference in Hollywood, Florida. This conference (November 16-17, 2006), sponsored by ICSC, BOMA, ARDA and NMHC, is being touted as a "[l]andmark Mixed-Use Conference that will be of interest to anyone involved in developing, designing, financing, leasing, managing, and marketing a Mixed-Use project…”
General Growth is the second largest real estate investment trust in the United States, owning more than 200 regional malls. In 2004, when it acquired the Rouse Co., a Columbia, Md.-based real estate development and management firm, the transaction included several master-planned communities (designed urban centers built from the ground up) that analysts expected General Growth would eventually sell off.
Instead, General Growth has decided to launch an aggressive redevelopment of the properties.
As part of the plan, the company is combining traditional retail with upscale amenities-restaurants, theaters, parks. But General Growth is also moving to include housing and urban planning-all of which attempt to follow the tenets of a trendy anti-suburban-sprawl movement called New Urbanism.
The panel discussion that Mr. D’Alesandro will be addressing is found on the International Council of Shopping Centers website:
The Special Challenges of Developing Mixed-Use ProjectsI would suggest that if anyone has some time in November, stop on by Hollywood, Florida and report back what is said. I think all of Columbia would be interested.
This session sets the stage for the rest of the conference as it examines the opportunities and challenges with regard to mixed-use as a unique product type. Panelists will evaluate overall project complexity; integration of uses; risks in entitlements, zoning and government regulations. Consideration will also be given to design complexity, construction costs and getting the right mix of tenants. Finally, the panelists will offer up their perspectives on whether a mixing of uses is the solution to a location that cannot support a single-use project.