Rouse, James W.

Rouse, James W.

(1914–  ) real estate developer, urban planner; born in Easton, Md. He lost both parents to illness in 1930 and attended night classes at the University of Maryland and its law school while holding such jobs as an auditor for a parking garage company. He worked briefly for the Federal Housing Administration before borrowing money to help found Rouse Co. (1939), a mortgage brokerage firm. During World War II he served with the U.S. Navy, then returned to Maryland and got into building when he erected an early shopping mall in Baltimore in the 1950s. In 1958 he made his name with the first completely enclosed shopping mall. In the 1960s he gained a wider reputation by building Columbia, Md., a totally planned city between Baltimore and Washington, D.C., designed eventually to have 100,000 residents. In the 1970s he became still more widely known for his work on restoring run-down focal locales in cities—the Faneuil Hall-Quincy Market in Boston, Mass. (done in collaboration with the architect/planner Benjamin Thompson), which opened in 1976, was the first. Rouse went on to do other such "festival marketplaces" (some in collaboration with Thompson) as Harborplace in Baltimore and South Street Seaport and Fulton Street Market in New York City. Having built the Rouse Co. into the largest publicly held development corporation in the U.S.A., he retired in 1979. But in 1982 he founded the Enterprise Foundation, using some of his fortune to seek innovative ways to provide housing for the poor. Labeled an "icon and visionary," (he is credited with coining the term "urban renewal"), he is better understood as the self-made man, devout churchgoer, and liberal Democrat who brought a no-nonsense approach to all he undertook.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.