Living: He Digs Downtown

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Rouse is a stocky (5 ft. 11 in.), balding, bespectacled man who looks like —and has been—an elder of the Presbyterian Church. On a recent late-morning tour of Harborplace, he was dressed like an avuncular preppie in a blue button-down shirt, a loud madras jacket and Bass Weejun loafers. Ankling around his waterfront pavilions, he is not so much a monarch surveying his turf as a wide-eyed tourist in a wonderland of consumer goodies. In the Light Street Pavilion, he sniffs the potted hydrangeas at the entrance, saunters beamishly past scores of food outlets, surveys Remembering You, a handsomely stocked gift shop, and peeks in on a shop crammed with antique postcards. He exchanges a few joky words with Anthony Hawkins, the 36-year-old black manager of Harborplace. At the Kite Loft, Rouse pays $1.95 for a "puddle jumper," a wooden propeller on a stick that whirls aloft and settles gently into the harbor. Rouse is pleased to note that on a busy weekday, the pavilion is spotless.

Lunch-bound, Rouse strolls across the brick promenade to the Pratt Street Pavilion, passing broadside the still formidable-looking cannons of the three-masted frigate U.S.F. Constellation, one of the first warships commissioned by the infant republic in 1797. The developer looks in on several retailers in the Pratt Street complex, which houses mostly smart boutiques and specialty stores like the Chesapeake Knife and Tool and the Powder Room, which sells cosmetics. The Rouse Co. carefully screens the tenants in all its projects. At Harborplace, out of an initial 2,000 applications, only about 30 were chosen. Says Rouse: "When we have openings in our shopping centers, we look for tenants who fit in, and who add something to our overall plan." Even the names of businesses are checked in advance to avoid excessive cuteness. The secret, says Benjamin Thompson, the Cambridge, Mass., architect who designed Faneuil Hall Marketplace and Harborplace, "is individual proprietorship, with immense, chaotic variety."

Over lunch, Rouse expands on his philosophy of urban development: "We have lived so long with grim, congested, worn-out inner cities and sprawling, cluttered outer cities, that we have subconsciously come to accept them as inevitable and unavoidable. Deep down in our national heart is a lack of conviction that cities can be beautiful, humane, and truly responsive to the needs and yearnings of our people."

That attitude, he believes, is wrong-headed and dangerous. After the riots that rocked cities across the U.S. in 1967, Rouse recalls, he told the Senate Finance Committee that "the task of making the American city a fit place to grow our people is the No. 1 priority of our civilization." Without viable and vital cities, there would be no civilization. Most cities were founded either as fortresses or marketplaces, Rouse points out, and nowadays he recovers the original impetus of modern cities by creating a marketplace-festival as the dynamo of downtown. He invokes a phrase he has made familiar among urbanologists: "Profit is the thing that hauls dreams into focus." Another familiar Rouse-ism: "It's not how many people live in a city. It's how many people use it."

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