Friday, April 17, 2009

GGP Files for Bankruptcy Protection

It was official yesterday, but never unexpected. GGP filed for bankruptcy protection in federal court. Derek Simmonsen and Jennifer Broadwater have the details of the local connection of the filing. Largely, Columbia goes unaffected by the filing.

The Mall in Columbia, the master-planned community of Columbia, and the development in Columbia Town Center are not involved in the bankruptcy filings, according to information posted on the company’s Web site.

Other local GGP properties not involved in the filings are the American City Building in downtown Columbia, the Columbia Association building, Towson Town Center, Laurel Commons and Mondawmin Mall.

Some local properties owned by or affiliated with General Growth that are part of the bankruptcy filing include Gateway Overlook shopping center, on the eastern edge of Columbia, and the Hickory Ridge Village Center, in west Columbia.
GGP has said that it plans to continue with its ZRA 113 and General Plan Amendment submissions.
“As we have said many times, a good general plan and zoning will run with the land,” Hamm said. “Regardless of who owns it or what the circumstances are, a quality plan and all that comes with it survives transfers, survives economic ups and downs.”
County Executive Ken Ulman and the County Council were not surprised by the filing and are figuring out what to do about it.

As I said in my testimony to the Planning Board, this filing should continue regardless of GGP's health. If GGP does wind up having to include Columbia Town Center in its filings, then it will likely go to new ownership. That ownership may or may not consist of one company, continuing in the tradition of Rouse Company. Therefore, it is critical to devise a plan that will be (a) enforceable and (b) forward-looking.

At the same time, this gives the Planning Board some more serious considersations in their deliberations. Also, it gives our government officials more responsibility for developing a plan that will stand up regardless of ownership. This plan should be reviewed as though we, the taxpayers, would be on the hook for infrastructure change and development. It should be reviewed under a what-if scenario that we will not have an owner/developer like GGP, with whom we have a decent relationship.

This filing does not mean the death of ZRA 113 and the GPA. It actually means that this filing carries even more weight than before the filing. The economic future of our town center hinges upon it.

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