Harvey to carry on with Rouse's creation

September 28, 1993|By Edward Gunts | Edward Gunts,Staff Writer

For the first time since its founding in 1981, the Enterprise Foundation, the Columbia-based affordable housing organization, won't have its founder at the top, as of Oct. 1. On that day, F. Barton Harvey III, 44, will become chairman and chief executive officer.

James W. Rouse, 79, the urban visionary and developer who launched the nonprofit organization with his wife, Patty, to help communities build "fit and affordable" housing across the country, will become founder-chairman.

In its first 12 years, Enterprise has become one of the nation's largest housing organizations, aiding in the construction of more than 28,000 residences from coast to coast. One of Enterprise's most ambitious projects is in Baltimore's Sandtown-Winchester area, where it joined with others to transform the neighborhood by improving not only the housing stock, but also the services and programs available to residents there.

A Baltimore native, Mr. Harvey joined Enterprise in 1984 after 10 years as managing director of corporate finance for a stock firm. Since 1991, he has served as a vice chairman and co-CEO.

QUESTION: James Rouse is larger than life in this community and the affordable housing field nationwide. How do you plan to build on the work he and Patty Rouse began at Enterprise?

ANSWER: Over the first 11 years, we've gone out, we've seen the need, and we've expanded Enterprise across the country. We are now active in more than 100 cities, with more than 320 nonprofit groups. We've had some very successful undertakings.

The way to build on what Jim and Patty started is to focus now and show the country in a few cities -- a few, meaning 10 to 15 -- that we can bring to bear everything that we've learned in low-income housing, and that we can do it at a scale and a size and in the same dimension as the need is, in the neighborhoods of that city.

Q: You're not planning to go into more cities?

A: I don't think we need to go to more cities. Enterprise can't undertake the problem of providing opportunities for housing for very low-income people across the country.

All we can do is show what's possible and deal with issues that are national in scope. We should really be providing the models of what is possible. We should be showing the country that if the investment is made, communities can change. By showing it can happen, it will happen in this country.

Q: Is that a departure from Enterprise's original mission?.

A: It's consistent with the original mission. The mission was to make sure that all low-income people have the opportunity for decent and affordable housing and for a path up and out of poverty within a generation.

We may have lopped off "within a generation," since a generation is 20 years and we're 10 years in and we haven't solved the problem yet.

Q: Is Enterprise making a difference?

A: We're making a difference in those communities in which we work. But overall, the problem [of affordable housing and related social ills] is getting worse rather than better.

Q: Enterprise's message has always been that building houses isn't enough, that it's important to rebuild lives. Is Enterprise moving away from being a housing provider?

A: No. Housing is the anchor, and it's what we hope we're skilled in -- cost-cutting strategies, financing, planning. But it's only an intervention point.

It's the lives of the individuals or families in that housing and their contacts within the immediate community that most concerns us. More and more, we're putting in place the other linkage points -- the support services, the social underlinks, the community contacts that go with that housing.

It's most evident in Sandtown-Winchester, which is our most radical plan. There, we said, "Not only are we going to build the housing and link the services, we're going to start over with the school system, we're going to start over with the health care system, and we're going to work with the federal, state and local governments to make sure that the way they carry out their programs works from the point of view of what the neighborhood wants."

Q: Several years ago, Enterprise announced a goal of transforming urban neighborhoods in three cities, starting with Sandtown-Winchester. Will Enterprise still do two more?

A: What we found from the extensive amount of work that we've done in Sandtown and the amount of time that it takes to go through a neighborhood-based and -led effort, is that it probably doesn't make as much sense to quote "do" three cities.

Rather, we're setting up what is called a neighborhood transformation center that is sharing the process of what we did in Sandtown-Winchester with other cities. There will be 10 or 12 in all.

Q: Whatever happened to the idea of using revenue from your for-profit real estate subsidiary, Enterprise Development Co., to generate money to help build housing for the poor?

A: That idea, given the state of the real estate business over the last five years, is no longer in our thinking.

The Enterprise Development Co., like any other real estate company, has struggled during this period, and this year it will make a small amount of money.

It will be many years before it could build significant value for the Enterprise Foundation. But we always knew that we were going to have to raise funds other ways, and we have done that.

Q: What is your greatest challenge at Enterprise?

A: To carry on Jim Rouse's mission and ideals and beliefs.

Jim is a remarkable person in that he can say things that no one would believe if they came from anyone else. Somehow, you can believe them when they come from him.

He has a remarkable track record that sort of says this is one of the Houdinis of the world.

What he set out to do in the mission of the Enterprise Foundation is probably the most ambitious thing he ever set out to do, which is saying something.

Keeping that vision alive and not letting people settle for less along the way -- that's the challenge.

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