While the company was known for developing new sales strategies, McCall was charged with organizing the relocation of the headquarters from suburban Minneapolis into an old train station downtown.
The relocation never materialized, but McCall's interest in development did.
Out from the shadow
Although to some it may seem as though McCall came out of nowhere, he has spent the last three decades living in the shadow of the park, which is less than two miles from his Hickory Ridge home.
From 1982 to 1992, McCall worked at a for-profit subsidiary of the Enterprise Foundation called the Enterprise Development Co. During those years, he oversaw the development of projects, helped lead a clandestine collaboration between Rouse and Disney, and consulted on major projects at the Field Museum in Chicago and overseas.
"I started in development in 1978, and I've had the privilege to have worked for and with some of the best people in the world," McCall said. "The Inner Arbor plan has a lot of facets to it, but everything I've done to date professionally prepares me for this."
And although the colloquial occupational description for McCall is "developer," he views it differently.
"In Hollywood, you have the creative, or what I call the 'red-tennis-shoe guys' and the 'suits' or the guys with the MBAs. Both are pejoratives, but they have some truth," McCall said.
"Then you think about Jim, who wore these very garish plaid sport coats and the silly fisherman's hat. ... He's a lawyer and a mortgage banker, but he loved the creative side of things. He's a metaphor for the integration of creativity and business."
After his departure from EDC, McCall founded Strategic Leisure, which strives to implement the integration Rouse believed in.
"The idea of the strategic designer, the combination of creative and analytical, aren't those the people who provide the greatest value to our society?" McCall said.
Bruce Laval, the former head of planning and development for Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, first met McCall while working on the secret collaboration known as "Rouse Mouse."
According to McCall, the 30-month joint venture began in 1985 and centered on the design, planning and conceptualization of three projects in Dallas, Chicago and Burbank.
As McCall wrote in a 2002 edition of Entertainment Management, "Disney and Rouse were attracted to each other out of mutual respect for the great places each had developed."
Although none of the three projects resulted in any development, Laval said it was a fruitful merger from Disney's perspective.
"Disney was considering doing some regional entertainment, so they decided to partner with Rouse," Laval said. "It was a good partnership."
Laval said McCall's greatest strength as a developer is his ability to blend different aspects into one "big picture."
"He's got the creative ability, and the business side of the equation, and he knows how to put the team together and get the best out of everybody," Laval said. "That's a rare talent."
Walt Disney Imagineering Director of Master Planning and Creative Development David Stofcik said McCall's practical and balanced approach doesn't hinder him from aiming high.
"That's key with Michael, he understands you have to present the big idea, and if you don't you are never going to have an impact in the community," Stofcik said.
Paumier also praised McCall for his creativity, but still has questions about how some aspects of the plan, specifically the construction of theaters and a CA headquarters on the park's inclined hill, can be brought from concept to reality.
"He's an idea man, he's all about good ideas. ... It is a brilliant idea, but it may not be buildable." Paumier said. "We need to raise questions."
Laval believes the skepticism comes with the territory.
"When you look at most great things that have been accomplished, people are always skeptical. Disney had a reputation of doing things that were crazy and couldn't be done," Laval said.
And as for the criticism that the plan is too costly or unfeasible, Laval's not buying it.
"I don't like it when people say it is too ambitious," Laval said. "If you want it to be great, you have to think big, and you have to think out of the box."