With the news that Whole Foods has taken a pass on locating in the Howard Hughes Building (old Rouse Building) it maybe time to look at other uses of the building. I wonder if the opening of the Wegman's had anything to do with the decision not to locate in Columbia. Columbia would seem to fit the profile of the perfect community to have a Whole Foods.
No other building in Columbia has the historical significance of the former Rouse Building. Historical preservation is not normally thought of with buildings built in the 1960's but it does relate to this building. With the sale of the Rouse Company to GGP and now to Howard Hughes the historical connection to Jim Rouse and the Rouse Company grows weaker each year. The conversion of the Rouse Building, designed by world famous architect Frank Gehry, to just another corporate office building would be a shame. Wouldn't it be better to have it become the offices of the Columbia Association, the Columbia Archives, maybe a new version of the Columbia Visitor's Center and other uses that speak to the identity of Columbia? Space could also be provided for community groups working on community projects. How about a children's museum or science center? How about center for planned communities that could be a think tank for community planning with a conference center? Wouldn't this be a logical center to be developed by Enterprise Community Partners and a more meaningful location for its offices than the American Cities Building?
To make these ideas possible would require involvement and financial investment of our community foundations and County government. That would be a hard sell in today's financial climate but maybe there could be some financial arrangement that Enterprise could develop like what they done in other communities around the country. Could tax credits be a financial mechanism to make this a reality? Once this building is just another corporate address for title companies, law offices or other businesses and another piece of Columbia's heritage will be lost.