Saturday, December 05, 2009

In This Months Business Monthly

It really rankles me when I hear people refer to General Growth Properties as a bankrupt developer as if that somehow makes them evil. Yes, the company sought protection of the bankruptcy courts when they were unable to refinance their debt. What is important to understand is that they are not asking anyone to forgive that debt. They are only working to extend the terms.

Bridget Mugane, speaking on behalf of the Howard County Citizens Association has repeatedly disparaged the company in public hearings and in the press. In this story by Sarah Breitenbach in the Howard County Times she called GGP a “folks who have no loyalty here, they're hard-nosed business people."

I take issue with this because I feel that Columbia and Howard County actually owe a debt of gratitude to GGP. Before they came along Columbia’s Town Center was being developed in a piecemeal fashion, one parcel at a time. There was no cohesion and no master plan. General Growth has breathed new life into Columbia.

They paid a high price for that privilege too. It was largely the debt that they incurred when they bought The Rouse Company that pushed them into bankruptcy. The founders of the company, the Bucksbaum family, lost control of the company and a good deal of their personal fortune.

No loyalty here?

I don’t think so Bridget. They have more at stake in this community than you do.

You can read this month’s column here.


Anonymous said...

“folks who have no loyalty here, they're hard-nosed business people.”

Interesting. I believe that Ms. Mugane is an attorney. If she is a good attorney, I am sure she is pretty hard-nosed as well. And I seriously doubt that she has any particular loyalty to most of her clients except that they pay her fee.

The reason I am not worried about my grocer running out of food is not because it is run by a benevolent soul, but by a corporate entity who wants to profit by selling me the products I want.

You are absolutely correct that GGP has far more at stake in making Columbia work that Mugane does.

Anonymous said...

I agree with you WB

Anonymous said...

Bridget's efforts, as well as those of the several longstanding true grassroots community groups (that didn't just pop up when development plans were released or zoning hearings were held), on behalf of Howard County's many communities, including Columbia, make me proud to live here and sleep easier each time I read their letters to the editor or newsletters or listserves, attend their meetings, or see them very competently testify on behalf of the communities in which they actually live and can truly call home.

For those of us who do call Columbia at home, from a relative standpoint we do have more at stake than a company for which Columbia comprises only a modest fraction of its holdings. And "more at stake" from a bottom line dollars and cents standpoint doesn't equate to loyalty to ensuring Columbia remains true to its still relevant, still desired goals.

Regarding cohesion and a master plan, we've now been asked to sacrifice permanently preserved open space for roads and buildings, weaken existing traffic congestion standards and instead accept lots more traffic congestion (along with its accompanying dangers, delays, and disturbances) in Town Center and adjacent roads and neighborhoods, forego adhering to Columbia's model of an elementary school for each neighborhood, and forego Columbia's model of inclusive full spectrum housing, to name a few. Cohesive? Masterful? Again and again and again, it sounds like some financial interests are being put in the front seat vs. Rouse's efforts to rehumanize the American city by Columbia's model giving rightful priority to the social and environmental aspects.

The irony here is I believe the developer could actually realize far greater returns if they held true to Columbia's model across the board, keeping Columbia a desirable place to "grow people" and respecting the land in all senses. Columbia is, after all, regularly ranked significantly higher than Reston in a certain national magazine's list of best places to live.

Could a better plan for all parties that doesn't include the currently proposed sacrifices be in the works?

JustTheFacts said...

Some might disagree with Ms. Mugane's position on downtown. However, she is one of a handful of people who have diligently volunteered hundreds of hours to research the issues and meet with community leaders and public officials to bring about responsible growth and development that includes guarantees for Columbia's roads, schools, environment and (most importantly) quality of life.

Anonymous said...

GGP is filled with thieves.

GGP people (again, people) made bad decisions that harmed their company, and then took $47 million in bonuses.

That makes them thieves.