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James Rouse, Maverick Urban Planner

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James Rouse, Maverick Urban Planner


(I read about him in today's Sunday Times article on Edward Norton - Rouse was Norton's grandfather.)

According to the Times:
James Rouse was a maverick urban planner who believed that cities should enhance their residents lifestyles. He transformed America's landscape, and championed the rejuvenation of abondoned docks and urban slums. Blighted waterfronts in Boston and Manhattan became:

1083081953_3360.jpg : map
Faneuil Hall - Boston

and the South Street Seaport - New York

They are hotspots for dining, shopping, and cultural activities. Cities worldwide embraced his vision. Because of him, London has...

Covent Garden - London

Then, he turned his attention to the poor. Believing that affordable, attractive housing would encourage them out of poverty, he founded the Enterprise Foundation (now Enterprise Community Partners), raised $6 billion, and built nearly 100,000 homes across America. He even built a town, Columbia, in Maryland, designed to his own principles.

= = = = =
James Rouse, -pedia : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Rouse
Columbia, Maryland. : http://www.columbia-md.com/ : Columbia Association
The Rouse Company : http://www.rousecompany.com/
Enterprise Foundation:

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Builder of Dreams

Master Planner James Rouse Believed that Business Could Build a Better World. But a New Book Asks: Was Believing Enough?


Tom Chalkley By Brennen Jensen


The late James Rouse--Maryland developer, urban renewal strategist, and giant among those who have shaped the way Americans live, work, and shop--once dubbed Disneyland "the greatest piece of urban design in the United States today."

While Nicholas Dagen Bloom titled his new book about Rouse Merchant of Illusion, he says that's not to suggest Rouse set out to build places as illusory as the Magic Kingdom. Instead, Bloom--a Baltimore native now working as assistant social sciences professor at the New York Institute of Technology--dubs Rouse "America's Salesman of the Businessman's Utopia." And by this "utopia," Bloom refers to a world lorded over not by big-eared cartoon mice, but by a benevolent private sector, profit-driven entrepreneurs dedicated to building a better tomorrow, whether it was slumless cities, vibrant suburbs, or engaging public spaces.


"It's a fabulous dream," the 34-year-old author says on the phone. "I can't say that I don't want to believe in it. I think everyone in America wants to believe that almost everything that's good in society can be derived out of bottom-line thinking. I'm just asking the question, 'When exactly will we see this?'"


In Merchant of Illusion, Bloom poses the query while casting a critical eye on Rouse's half-century of endeavors, during which time he helped birth the planned suburban community (Columbia), the modern shopping mall (everywhere), and the urban "festival marketplace" (Harborplace and others). But while Bloom calls Rouse a salesman, he doesn't cast him as a winking, pocket-lining huckster.


"I do not in any way doubt Rouse's sincerity," says Bloom, who goes so far as to call him "the last great American progressive." Rather, his book posits that while Rouse possessed towering idealism and grand--if perhaps naive--visions, the same can't be said for those around him. The profit-seeking apparatus at the heart of his ventures, Bloom suggests, ultimately eroded many of Rouse's more noble intentions.


Bloom's major source for the book--which he admits is geared more for the university bookstore than the local Borders--was "box after box" of documents that the James Rouse estate gave to the Columbia Archives after Rouse's death in 1996. Together, he says, they present a picture of a builder whose yearn for reform was outdone only by his belief in the free market.


Rouse was born in Easton, on the Eastern Shore, in 1914, co-founded a Baltimore mortgage firm in 1939, and by the early 1950s had made a name for himself as progenitor of both housing and shopping developments. Cultural embarrassment as much as anything thrust Rouse into the realm of urban policy in the Cold War 1950s, Bloom explains: The United States was leader of the free world and the standard-bearer for capitalism, yet much of its urban poor lived in abject squalor.


"Rouse was profoundly concerned about the image of America and American cities as a reflection of the capitalist system," Bloom says.


In postwar Europe, he explains, government took the lead role in rebuilding shattered cities, while the Soviets distributed propaganda footage of their massive state housing schemes. Rouse, however, believed that free enterprise could solve urban decay with little federal involvement. This is when, Bloom writes, Rouse helped popularize the term "urban renewal" and became a proponent of its key motifs: highways slicing through cities, modernist office blocks replacing established streetscapes, and other bulldozer-based initiatives.


Close to home, Rouse was an avid backer of what came to be known as the Baltimore Plan, a slum-busting program of targeted cleanups, tenant education, and intense building- and health-code enforcement. In 1951, a few battered East Baltimore blocks were put under the plan, with spectacular results. A documentary film of the efforts made a national splash. But the efforts soon stalled, the media buzz faded, and as Bloom writes, there wasn't "sufficient will and leadership" to sustain the approach. The developer moved on to new projects, this time in retail.


Rouse didn't invent the shopping mall, but he jumped on the concept early and eagerly, with typically great expectations. While "mall culture" today suggests bland, corporate homogenization, Bloom writes that Rouse and other mall pioneers initially had lofty goals for their developments. The climate-controlled centers were to be the new Main Streets for America's burgeoning suburban lifestyle, and as such they would contain not only diverse merchants--like grocers, pharmacies, and doctors' offices--but also art galleries, little theaters, dance halls, and even churches. Rouse avidly touted these plans for his malls, and his 1958 Harundale Mall in Glen Burnie, since demolished, became the first enclosed mall east of the Mississippi. But over time, Bloom explains, the main purpose of the shopping centers--to make money for their developers--trumped Rouse's idealistic visions.


"Rouse attempted to make malls genuine public gathering places," Bloom says. "Unfortunately, this goal was not built into the actual machinery of the mall, which ultimately undermined their idea as Main Street." Balance-sheet Darwinism, he says, saw to it that only the fittest merchants--corporate chains--could survive.


Rouse then turned to his most ambitious project, and his most lasting legacy: the "New Town" of Columbia, which opened in 1967. Its impetus can be traced to Rouse's growing displeasure with the piecemeal, uncoordinated growth of suburbia, and in Merchant of Illusion, Bloom reveals that while Rouse was generally suspicious of European ideas, Columbia owes much to New Towns that were sprouting up across the pond, particularly in Sweden. He planned Columbia with a view to fostering both economic and ethnic diversity--calling for subsidies to cover 10 percent of housing, marketing with a stress on racial integration--and his approach proved attractive to many in the turbulent 1960s, with social progressives being among the first to move in. But Bloom quotes critics who deride Columbia's bland architecture, the parking lot-encircled Everymall at its center, and the fact that Rouse's goals for diversity still remain elusive. And, Bloom adds, the concept didn't catch on in other parts of the country, as Rouse had hoped. While the initial success of Columbia helped start a federal program to provide seed money for additional New Towns, none of them flourished.


"It was always [Rouse's] hope that once he demonstrated the usefulness of the profit motive in social policy, whether New Towns, or housing, or so forth, that it would generate imitation," Bloom says. But when those hopes too faded, Rouse turned back to the inner city.


Cynics have often noted that after Rouse's developments helped to suck the vitality--both economic and human--out of downtown Baltimore, he was only too glad to cast himself in the role of "city rescuer." But Bloom doubts there was anything quite so conspiratorial about Rouse's decision to focus on the decaying urban core. His brainchild for inner-city revival was the "Festival Marketplace," a concept first delivered in 1976 with Boston's Faneuil Hall, and brought to Baltimore as Harborplace in 1980: a mix of shopping center and attractive public space, enlivened with aspects of Baltimore's traditional urban emporiums like Lexington Market. Entrepreneurs and shoppers of all economic backgrounds would mesh in a colorful, organic mélange, Rouse hoped. But Bloom writes that Harborplace turned out to be "the Trojan horse of the suburban reentry into the center city."


"The horse itself was the idea of a local, zesty, flavorful market environment that would be created," Bloom says. "The danger inside the horse was that the engine that drove it was the hard-style mall management approach of ever-increasing returns."


To illustrate his claim, Bloom cites a Rouse Co. executive in 1981 who stated that that 90 percent of Harborplace merchants were from the Baltimore-Washington region. Today, a cursory stroll through the pair of pavilions--with their Hooters, Gap, and Cheesecake Factory outlets--shows how that claim failed to hold.


"The Rouse Company built delightful urban spaces," Bloom writes of Harborplace, "but proved ham-handed when it came to restoring small-scale capitalism and the intimacy and character of actual city marketplaces."


Rouse retired from the Rouse Co. in 1979 at age 65, and in his later years returned to the issue of neighborhood decay. He founded the Enterprise Foundation in 1982, another private-sector project targeting housing for the poor. Bloom calls the foundation, which promotes partnerships between for- and nonprofit corporations, Rouse's "most successful" undertaking, citing the sheer number of housing units it has affected. As in the 1950s, though, its efforts have been accompanied by lofty pronouncements that proved difficult to fulfill. Locally, the Enterprise Foundation has focused efforts on West Baltimore's Sandtown neighborhood, where, Bloom notes, some 1,000 houses have been renovated or constructed. But still, he says, the ultimate result has been "an island of private-sector social democracy in an impoverished city." The crushing decay surrounding Sandtown, he observes, coupled with a citywide lack of jobs, has stymied efforts to bring lasting renewal to the neighborhood.


Indeed, if there is a unifying theme to Merchant of Illusion, it's that Rouse's profit-driven approach to tackling Baltimore's ills came at the expense of federal efforts, that plans like his served to lessen government investment in social welfare, particularly public housing. In certain circles, Bloom will no doubt be dismissed as a lefty academic chucking stones at a revered figure from the cozy precipice of the ivory tower. When asked what the response to the book has been from those who knew or worked with Rouse, Bloom offers, "No comment.


"I think Rouse himself would have enjoyed the book," he allows. "He was not above self-criticism."


But today, eight years after Rouse's death, Baltimore remains awash in squalid neighborhoods, and suburbia is still searching for its Main Street. Comprehensive planning, both private and public, remains a prickly proposition. Planned "towns" being built today tend to be socially stratified, gated golf-course communities. Meanwhile, a haphazard exurbia charges ever outward, public planning remains politically charged, and Maryland's Smart Growth program is being dismantled by an Annapolis administration with other priorities.


Despite a penchant for frumpy suits and an avuncular demeanor--or perhaps because of these likable attributes--Rouse was able to generate a great deal of excitement for his projects-cum-causes. The overarching illusion Bloom alludes to, however, might be Rouse's own vision of a private sector that was sincerely interested in improving the built environment.


"The illusion can be viewed in general terms," Bloom says. "It's the illusion of an American society that was genuinely committed to creating a perfect place--that there was a top-to-bottom commitment to creating a good society. And I think [Rouse] was a brilliant salesman of that vision."


@: http://www.citypaper.com/arts/story.asp?id=6242

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CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: Mr. Campbell, you're sitting in Boston, where Fanueil Hall was created by James Rouse, the first of his so-called festival marketplaces. How has this kind of urban rebuilding stood the test of time?


ROBERT CAMPBELL, Boston Globe: (Boston) I think it made just a tremendous difference. You have to remember Boston and other American cities, but particularly Boston was coming out of a 40-year recession. There was no belief in the investment in downtown. He came in and with others that worked with him created something I think that was kind of--of reinvigorated the idea of what was local. They moved into a building that was 150 years old, an historic structure, and tried to create a sense of the region. This was an era when Americans were buying their food wrapped in plastic and shipped from California to supermarkets, and here's a guy saying no, come on downtown, buy fish, this is Boston, and buy it from local merchants and regain a sense of the local place.


...MORE: http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/remember/rouse_4-10.html

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  • 5 months later...

Similar ideas, but less money to put them into practice??



James Howard Kunstler (born 1948) is an American author, social critic, and blogger who is perhaps best known for his book The Geography of Nowhere, a history of suburbia and urban development in the United States. In his most recent book, The Long Emergency (2005), he argues that declining oil production will result in the end of industrialized society and force Americans to live in localized, agrarian communities. In the late 1990s, he had argued that the Y2K event would result in similar consequences. [1]


Kunstler was born in New York City. Spending summers at a boys camp in New Hampshire, Kunstler became acquainted with the small town ethos that would later permeate many of his works.


@: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Howard_Kunstler

= =


The Geography of Nowhere:

The Geography of Nowhere: The Rise and Decline of America's man-Made Landscape is a book written in 1993 by James Howard Kunstler exploring the effects of urban sprawl, civil planning and the automobile on American society. The book is an attempt to discover how and why suburbia has ceased to be a credible human habitat, and what society might do about it. Kunstler proposes that by reviving civic art and civic life, we will rediscover public virtue and a new vision of the common good. 'The future will require us to build better places,' Kunstler says, 'or the future will belong to other people in other societies.'


(the CAR is to blame... that and cheap oil.

Look at the photos at the top: See any cars??)


"Most of the problems associated with oil are problems associated with cars, and cars are the focus of J. H. Kunstler's book. Published in the early 90s, The Geography of Nowhere describes the impact of automobiles on the development of the U.S. Apparently, things started to go south during the Depression, when people were driven out of cities by poverty and the diminishing quality of life in the tenements. Fueling the flight to the suburbs were New Deal programs to build roads and cheap houses. In the ensuing decades the American landscape was built to serve cars rather than people, and that is what Kunstler is angry about. His main criticisms are:


1) A lot of the architecture, both residential and commerical, is very ugly. Buildings are constructed quickly and cheaply, and without regard to their surroundings. After all, what's the point of worrying about your surroundings if people are just going to drive directly to their destination? On this point, Kunstler is angry and sarcastic, though often funny. However, his tone is unfortunate, because ugliness is ultimately a matter of opinion, and I would bet that most people would say they are quite happy living in their suburban boxes. Kunstler argues that people are happy this way because they don't know any better, and he's probably right, but as far as I know there is no good way to force people to appreciate beauty.


2) When you step back from the individual buildings, and look at the organization of towns and cities, things start to look really grim. Here Kunstler's got a good point. Throughout most of America, the landscape is zoned into residential and commercial districts, which are separated by long stretches of four-lane roads. The residential zones are further divided by income (and to a lesser extent, by race and ethnicity), impeding the development of anything like a genuine community. The result is a weird mix of intolerance and paranoia that pervades the culture of what has historically been a relatively progressive nation.


3) At an even larger scale, the impact of cars on the nation and on the world seems absolutely dire. The Geography of Nowhere was written before car companies had figured out how to trick yuppies into buying pick-up trucks, and by now there is a broad scientific consensus that the Earth's climate is getting warmer as a result of human activities. Yet people continue to buy bigger and bigger SUVs, and to drive them longer distances to get to work or to buy their microwaveable burritos. It's like a hideous inversion of the idea of public transportation, in which every individual drives his or her own bus to work. Here it's not merely a matter of personal preference -- it's only possible for an individual to drive an SUV if other people subsidize the cost of cheap oil and environmental degradation. In all likelihood these other people haven't been born yet.


Ultimately, someone has to make decisions about the development of towns and cities, and there's no reason in a democratic society why these decisions have to be based on short-term economic interests. Although most suburbanites are probably not miserable in their surroundings, I doubt if anyone would consider their dependence on cars to be ideal. The Geography of Nowhere is a good way to start thinking about kicking the habit."


...Review (Feb. 1, 2006): http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/customer-...155&s=books

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  • 1 year later...
(I read about him in today's Sunday Times article on Edward Norton - Rouse was his grandfather.)


According to the Times:

James Rouse was a maverick urban planner who believed that cities should enhance their residents lifestyles. He transformed America's landscape, and championed the rejuvenation of abondoned docks and urban slums. Blighted waterfronts in Boston and Manhattan became:


1083081953_3360.jpg : map

Faneuil Hall - Boston



and the South Street Seaport - New York


They are hotspots for dining, shopping, and cultural activities. Cities worldwide embraced his vision. Because of him, London has...



Covent Garden - London


I still like those Rouse buildings


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  • 1 year later...


It was eaten by GGW, back in 2004, on its way to bubbling up, and going bust...




General Growth's trophy properties have held up despite the collapse of retail sales. Typically, regional shopping centers weather downturns better than office buildings or strip malls, thanks to high-quality tenants and long-term leases.


But General Growth is paying the price for a spending spree, including a $12 billion deal for Rouse Co. in 2004.


Crucially, it failed to pay down debt in the years that followed. At 92 percent of book value, its debt load is way too heavy for hard times.


John Bucksbaum, a second-generation member of the family that founded the company, stepped down as chief executive late last year after voicing confidence almost to the end. The sinking economy is "no reason to set off the alarms and abandon ship," he told Wall Street analysts less than a year ago. "I remain very enthusiastic about our business."


By November, the stock had plunged from around $40 to 40 cents. Shares closed Thursday at 50 cents, down 19 percent on the day.


"It's definitely a sad story," said Linda Phelps, analyst at Standard & Poor's, who earlier this week cut the company's debt rating to a rock-bottom D. "They have very nice assets. I would expect somebody would own Faneuil Hall and Water Tower."


One potential buyer is Simon Property Group in Indianapolis, a mall operator that avoided the debt trap. Analysts have speculated that boss David Simon would snap up Fashion Show and other Las Vegas malls that General Growth has tried to unload. At the end of January, Simon flatly denied any interest.


These crown-jewel malls aren't going away, but they can't be taken for granted, either. Americans are making a smaller proportion of their purchases at malls, and more at big-box merchants such as Wal-Mart. They're bored with the sameness and predictability of the typical indoor shopping-center experience.


/more: http://www.chicagotribune.com/business/col...,5951581.column

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THE ROUSE TAKEOVER was part of a strategy to save General Growth - too little, too late ?


West Loop real estate firm touts New Urbanism


By KATE MESCH, Medill News Service - 9/13/2006


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.


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.


"Not every developer can say that they can really move the ship in a direction different from where it's been," said Matthew Shannon, General Growth senior development director and a follower of New Urbanism. "I really believe this is where the industry is going."


A reaction to the suburban sprawl of the 1980s, New Urbanism is a design movement led by belief in "walkable" cities with diverse housing and job opportunities. Its tenets include regional planning for open spaces, appropriate architecture, historic preservation, and green building. But can a big mall company really do New Urbanism?


"A big mall company can do anything that's going to make them a lot of money," said John McIlwane, a senior fellow for housing at the Washington, D.C.-based Urban Land Institute, a nonprofit organization devoted to research and education on land use and development. "It's interesting that a company with a history of building traditional malls would be looking at this kind of new development. It shows the maturing of New Urbanism."


McIlwane credits New Urbanism's popularity with a trend toward urbanism that's beginning with both young people and baby boomers alike. "Cities are cool," he said.


According to Shannon, General Growth Properties' New Urbanism projects work to effectively combine all real estate uses-retail, residential, and office-in a vertically integrated format that's segregated horizontally. Ideal plans contain at least two housing types: flats in towers and located above retail stores, as well as liner town homes used to shield views of parking structures that don't add to streetscape and ambiance.


"It's a carefully crafted public realm," Shannon said.


Ryan Dobratz, a real estate analyst with West Loop-based research firm Morningstar Inc., said that General Growth has sunk roughly $3.2 billion, or a little less than 10 percent of its investable capital, into master-planned communities. According to his calculations, the company stands to spend about $1.5 billion in development over the next two years.


Though Shannon acknowledges that the lifestyle centers' building costs are anywhere from 10 to 25 percent more than traditional properties, he says the investment will pay off because consumer demand for walkable areas is so high right now.


General Growth may well be linking its fortunes to the New Urbanism, which is gathering steam. Shannon cites Mizner Park, a Boca Raton, Fla., mall with the slogan "shop, dine, live, work, relax" as a good example of New Urbanism. An existing project completed under the Rouse Co.'s direction, Shannon called it "quite frankly the most progressive company in our portfolio."




Now boasting bookstores, restaurants, and amphitheaters, Mizner was built on the ashes of a demolished, more traditional enclosed mall.


Jud Malone helped initiate urban planning workshops in Columbia, Md., where General Growth bought 246 of the 439 acres that make up the city's town center, including 65 undeveloped acres, as part of the Rouse acquisition in 2004. Malone said that although the real development is yet to begin, he's confident that General Growth will carry through with promised New Urbanism principles.


In other areas of town, he said, the company is still building boxes, still contributing to suburban sprawl. He wonders whether the Columbia master-planned community is an isolated sideline or a corporate business plan.


"It's a valid question: How deeply are they committed to moving their corporate culture?" Malone asked. "No big company changes overnight."


/more: http://www.chicagojournal.com/main.asp?Sec...79&TM=83027

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