Thirty years ago today The Rouse Company headquarters in Columbia was virtually shut down as all available hands were sent to Baltimore to help out with the opening of Harborplace. Some of us were even given hotel rooms for the days leading up to opening so that theoretically we could catch some sleep once in awhile.
At the time I was working for the Vice President and Director of Marketing, Marlys East. My colleague Robin Higgins was charged with planning and coordinating the grand opening stuff. It was quite a production. The checklist that we ran through daily was over two hundred pages long.
On opening morning I was assigned to help with the massive balloon release. Starting at around 5:30 AM teams of Rouse employees worked to fill large canvas bins with multicolored helium balloons. Most of the time I ran around giving out band aids to people for the blisters they got from tying off too many balloons.
Our reward came in the form of a radio message from Robin telling me to "let ‘em rip.” Each bin was covered with a canvas top. At my signal the canvas was pulled back on at least ten of theses boxes and thousands of balloons filled the sunlit summer morning.
It was a fantastic day in Baltimore.
Later that day I finally found my way to the Black Pearl, one of the newly opened restaurants in the Light Street Pavilion. I recall that the owner noticed my two way radio that I was still carrying around and asking me about it.
“I’m from The Rouse Company,” I told him while handing over my business card. “We’ve assigned people to each bar and restaurant to report back on how things are going out on the street.”
I told him that Jim Rouse and senior Rouse executives along with the mayor and his staff were in a control room in the World Trade Center next door monitoring the opening day activities.
I drank free all night.
Happy 30th Birthday Harborplace!