Thursday, July 26, 2012

Victory Lap

This morning I asked Paul Skalny if he was going to attend the Howard Hughes / Whole Foods announcement ceremony today.

“No. I already know what they’re going say.”

Excellent point. No sooner had HowChow broken the story late yesterday then the story went viral. At that point events got a little ahead themselves. The Whole Foods cat was out of the bag before the announcement invites even got sent out. HowChow picked up the big clue from Marketwatch in a transcript of Whole Foods third quarter earnings call. A list of future openings was included and Columbia, Maryland was among the list of newly signed leases.

Where else could it be?

Anyway, the two companies decided to go ahead and have their moment regardless. I went, not so much for the actual announcement, but more to see friends and foes alike gathered in the same room.

The only notable absence was Alan Klein. He would have loved it too. The’re were lots of press seeking reactions from  "the people of Columbia."

Liz Bobo attended as did Cindy Coyle and Alex Heikimian. Cindy and Alex have not exactly been staunch supporters of the Town Center redevelopment program. They were all smiles today though.

Ken came to bask in the moment. This is a big win for his business cred and a nice little spot on the evening news to boot.

John DeWolf was the real man of the hour. After today the downtown crowd will be saying “Greg who?”

In a nod to Columbia history John said that the building will still be called The Rouse Building, though that sign will be considerably smaller than the Whole Foods sign.

I’m excited and yet somewhat saddened by the imminent transformation of a building that its architect once described as an “elegant warehouse.” I had the pleasure to work in the building in the early eighties. Although my office was on the ground floor I had friends on the second and third floors too. It was an easy place to wander around.

After the announcement this morningI slipped back down to the ground level to take a final picture of the pigs. The pigs fountain was a focal point of the ground floor dwellers back in the day. I wonder where it will end up.

The good news is that, as part the massive interior makeover that John is undertaking with the lakefront building, Frank Gehry will be bought back to Columbia to get his input. John’s planning on having  him take a look Merriweather as well since he designed that too. It would be very cool if Howard Hughes had some of Gehry's reactions to the new downtown taped and posted on You Tube.

As I was leaving I was handed a Whole Foods reusable shopping bag with cookies and a bottle of sparkling water. I’m keeping the cookies and the water but I’m giving the bag to HowChow for Mrs. HowChow. I hear she’s a big fan.
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