Peyton Skipwith Cochran Jr., a longtime Rouse Co. executive who helped develop shopping centers but was deeply interested in land preservation, died Thursday at Springwell Senior Living in Baltimore from complications of Alzheimer's and a stroke. He was 85.
In addition to helping start two local groups that reflected his interest in the outdoors, Mr. Cochran — known as Skip — was active in fox hunting and steeplechasing. He was a partner in Arcadia Stable, owner of Buck Jakes, a horse that twice won the Maryland Hunt Cup and died at age 24 in January.
Mr. Cochran, the son of a Sun Oil Co. executive, grew up in the Green Spring Valley in Baltimore County and joined the Navy in 1944 soon after graduating from Gilman School in Baltimore.
"By the time he went to boot camp and got sent to California, the war was over and he got sent home again," said his wife, Evelyn Ledyard Cochran of Reisterstown.
They met in the 1950s — one of his good friends married one of hers — and wed in 1960.
By then, he was already at the Rouse Co. He had graduated from the University of Virginia in 1950 and worked for Maryland National Bank before joining Rouse — then newly involved in development — in 1957.
When Mr. Cochran retired around 1990, the Rouse Co. had become an internationally known brand — both for turning a sleepy corner of Maryland into the planned community of Columbia and for its work on urban shopping destinations such as Harborplace.
Mr. Cochran, with a passion for conservation formed by his childhood in the rolling Green Spring Valley, was less out of place at Rouse than he would have been in many development firms. Founder James W. Rouse despised sprawl.
"Jim Rouse was such a tremendous visionary, and he must have been very exciting to work for," Mrs. Cochran said.
Mathias J. DeVito, longtime chief executive of the company, said Cochran's efforts to find, acquire and shepherd land through the zoning process for new Rouse malls across the country was not out of keeping with his preservation ideals.
"He brought projects that really were needed and that were in areas where there really wasn't much argument about commercial development," Mr. DeVito said. "He never would have tried to do something in a place like the Valley."
With his energy, tenacity and willingness to travel, Mr. Cochran was "perfectly suited" for his job as senior vice president of new business, Mr. DeVito said.
"He was all over the place with great success," he said. "He found a good number of important projects that we ultimately built into shopping malls. … You're running around, other developers are making offers, you've got to get department stores, you've got to get zoning — it was very, very tough work. But it didn't seem to faze him."
Mr. Cochran was one of the founding members of the Land Preservation Trust, which created Shawan Downs, a 300-acre equestrian center in Cockeysville. Members of the trust were concerned that it otherwise would be developed. He was particularly concerned about preserving the Green Spring Valley area.
"Once it's paved over, there is no going back," said Mrs. Cochran, who shared his interest in land preservation.
Her husband was also a founding member of the Maryland Association for Wildlife Conservation, which advocates for hunters' rights. A fox hunter, he was once master of the Green Spring Valley Hounds.
Mr. Cochran served for a time as board chairman of the Garrison Forest School in Baltimore County and senior warden of St. John's Church in Reisterstown, his wife said.
In addition to his wife, he is survived by three children, Katie Elder of New York, Jack Cochran of Florida and Henry Cochran of Kentucky; and five grandchildren.
Services are scheduled for 11 a.m. Monday at St. John's Church, 3738 Butler Road in Reisterstown.