Howard County Times
Howard County

Enterprise Community Partners getting new home but staying in Columbia

Enterprise Community Partners, a Columbia-based organization that helps people around the country find affordable housing, is itself getting a new home but staying in Columbia.

After considering numerous locations, the nonprofit founded by James and Patricia Rouse plans to move its headquarters next year to the Columbia building once occupied by the Ryland Group, less than a mile from its current location. Before starting Enterprise, James Rouse headed the company that launched the development of Columbia 50 years ago.

"The location is important to us because of its relationship with Mr. and Mrs. Rouse, and Enterprise was founded here," said Charles Werhane, president and chief executive of Enterprise Community Investment, an affiliate of Enterprise Community Partners that also will move to the former Ryland building. "In the final analysis ... we decided this is our home."

Starting in March, Enterprise plans to occupy the top four floors of 70 Corporate Center at Little Patuxent and Broken Land parkways, a nine-story building purchased in August by the Howard Hughes Corp., now master developer of Columbia's Town Center.

The long-term lease for 76,308 square feet represents one of the largest office transactions announced for Central Maryland this year and will help fill a building that has been largely vacant for more than a decade.

The location will be just the second headquarters for Enterprise since the Rouses established it in the early 1980s. Enterprise will move from the American City Building on Wincopin Circle to make way for redevelopment. Enterprise's 250 Columbia-based employees will move to the new location. Several hundred employees in other cities will remain there.

Enterprise also considered locations in Baltimore, Washington and Anne Arundel County. The directors felt obligated to explore options but chose to stay in Columbia for a variety of reasons, including a desire to honor the Rouses' legacy and Enterprise's long-standing relationship with Howard County, Werhane said. In addition, many of its employees live in or near Columbia.

The newer building will provide an improved work setting more appropriate to the way Enterprise operates today, he said.

"This works well for us," Werhane said. "It allows us to have a better corporate feel, to be on four floors instead of eight."

Enterprise's decision helps support the revitalization of Columbia by keeping 250 employees there while freeing a key area of Town Center for renewal, said John DeWolf, senior vice president of development for Howard Hughes.

The American City Building is next to the former Rouse Co. headquarters on Little Patuxent Parkway, a building that Howard Hughes plans to convert to a mixed-use development with a Whole Foods market as an anchor.

Since plans for Whole Foods were announced in July, DeWolf said, "we've had inquiries from all kinds of potential users" who are interested in being nearby. The American City Building is one of the next logical redevelopment sites, he said.

Enterprise will move into the space formerly occupied by Ryland, a homebuilder founded in Maryland that moved to California in 1999. The 170,000-square-foot building was completed in 1992. According to DeWolf, the space has been vacant since Ryland left.

Enterprise was founded as the Enterprise Foundation to create "fit and affordable" housing around the country. According to communications manager Brigitte Johnson, it has raised and invested more than $11.5 billion to build or preserve nearly 300,000 residences in the past three decades.

Enterprise has offices in New York, San Francisco, Washington, Baltimore, New Orleans, Seattle, Dallas, Denver, Chicago and other cities. It recently acquired a mortgage company in Cleveland.

James Rouse, an early Columbia resident who died in 1996, selected the American City Building to be Enterprise's headquarters and headed the organization for years after retiring from the Rouse Co. Patricia "Patty" Rouse, also a longtime Enterprise executive and board member, died in March.

DeWolf sad Enterprise's decision to move grew out of conversations with Howard Hughes, which in 2010 succeeded the Rouse Co. and General Growth Properties as the master developer of Columbia's Town Center

According to DeWolf, Howard Hughes has a master lease for the American City Building, which essentially makes it Enterprise's landlord.

As part of its effort to revitalize downtown Columbia, DeWolf said, Howard Hughes has been exploring ways to upgrade or redevelop older buildings close to Lake Kittamaqundi, including the American City Building.

Besides Enterprise, which currently occupies about 90,000 square feet, tenants of the American City Building include the Columbia Archives, an art gallery, a restaurant and a post office.

With a redevelopment strategy now set for the former Rouse headquarters, DeWolf said, Howard Hughes wants to develop a plan for the American City property but couldn't make major changes as long as Enterprise occupied most of the space. He said Howard Hughes began discussions with Enterprise officials about the possibility of finding a new location and suggested the former Ryland property. DeWolf said Enterprise had several years to go on its lease at the American City Building, but Howard Hughes wanted to be proactive.

"We foresaw that they likely would go somewhere else if we didn't get ahead of them," he said.

DeWolf said Howard Hughes officials believe the lakefront area has strong potential for additional office space, retail space and housing, either for sale or for rent. He said Howard Hughes is considering a range of options for the American City Building, from interior renovations and reskinning of the exterior to demolishing the structure and replacing it.

With Enterprise set to move, he said, Howard Hughes is in a better position to determine the best use for the American City property. If the building is torn down, it would be among the first major structures in Columbia to be razed since Columbia was dedicated in 1967.

Werhane said Enterprise selected an early 2013 moving date because fall is a busy time for the organization. It also gives Howard Hughes time to get the former Ryland space ready for Enterprise, with much of the work expected to take place this fall, DeWolf said.