Tower of honor, vision, learning City structure named for Rouse, student is to be built this year

September 10, 1997|By Edward Gunts | Edward Gunts,SUN STAFF

James W. Rouse was a social architect and humanitarian whose visionary thinking improved cities around the globe, including Baltimore.

Elizabeth Flick was a 13-year-old McDonogh School student who died in 1980 in a camping accident in Wisconsin.

They never knew each other. But they will be inextricably linked on Baltimore's skyline, through the construction of an unusual memorial that will be dedicated to both.

The Rouse-Flick Learning Tower will be a 75-foot-tall, $150,000 wooden observation tower, built starting this fall on a city-owned pier that serves as the East Harbor campus of the Living Classrooms Foundation.

Featuring panoramic views of Baltimore's rejuvenated waterfront, the tower will supplement the programs of the foundation, a nonprofit organization that provides hands-on education and employment training for young people in deliberately unconventional settings.

The tower is the final structure planned for the foundation's waterfront campus at 802 S. Caroline St. RTKL Associates designed it to be the campus' signature element. Once it is completed this year, students and others will be able to climb to the top and look out over the Inner Harbor, Fells Point, Federal Hill and the Chesapeake Bay.

Half the money needed for construction -- $75,000 -- is being donated by a local development and contracting company, Struever Bros., Eccles & Rouse. The other half has been donated by the Elizabeth Flick Charitable Foundation, established by the Flick family of Baltimore.

The tower is being dedicated to Rouse and Flick in recognition of the two gifts and what the individuals stood for, explained James Piper Bond, executive director of the Living Classrooms Foundation.

"If you look around the Inner Harbor, the whole area could be a memorial to Jim Rouse and the vision he had," Bond said of the Maryland native, who died in April 1996 at age 81.

"But this will be the first real structure named after him. And Elizabeth Flick was a young person with a lot of potential. The potential of youth is a lot of what the Living Classrooms Foundation is all about. Vision is a lot of what the Living Classrooms Foundation is about. So we think it's a nice match."

Born on Maryland's Eastern Shore in 1914, Rouse founded the company that built the Harborplace shopping pavilions, the Gallery at Harborplace, the city of Columbia and many other developments.

After he retired from the Rouse Co. in 1981, he and his wife, Patty, launched the Enterprise Foundation, a nonprofit housing and community development organization.

Rising 75 feet above the pier, and equipped with a windmill-powered generator and solar panels, the tower will be visible from all over the harbor. The foundation plans to make it a setting where students can learn about the history of Baltimore's harbor, industry, shipping and economic development.

The top level will be partially enclosed to provide a year-round learning space that will house delicate equipment, which students will use to monitor weather for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

James Flick, chief executive officer of the Dome Corp. and chairman-elect of the Living Classrooms Foundation, said he and his wife are pleased that their daughter will be memorialized this way.

"We often talk about what Elizabeth would have done with her life," he said. "We just don't know. Here's a place with kids who could be and do a lot of things, and it helps them find themselves. And the other side is Jim Rouse, who was a visionary about what cities could be. So it's a good combination."

The honorees represent two ends of the spectrum, agreed Ted Rouse, one of James Rouse's sons, a partner in Struever Bros., Eccles & Rouse and a board member of the Living Classrooms Foundation. "Elizabeth Flick was this expressive, popular person with a lot of dreams," he said. "She symbolizes what youth can be. My father was dedicated to the plight of the poor and belief in humanity and belief in the vision that youth represents. So it was a natural combination."

Rouse added that his father was a humble man who didn't believe in building monuments for the sake of building monuments.

"I don't think he would have wanted his name put on something unless it was to serve people," Rouse said. "This is the kind of thing that my father would appreciate. He'll be there in spirit with it."

Bond said the tower will be constructed in sections as soon as the wood arrives this fall. Once the sections are assembled, he said, they will be stacked one atop another by a crane during a weekend ceremony akin to an old-fashioned barn raising. He expects the tower to be ready for use by the end of the year.

In addition to the tower project, the foundation is raising $160,000 to equip an aquaculture center in the basement of the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Education Center, an environmental education pavilion that opened earlier this year next to the tower site.

The foundation also recently took over the Chase's Wharf property in Fells Point and is raising $5 million to convert it to a shipyard and waterfront park named in honor of two African-Americans with ties to Baltimore's maritime community, Frederick Douglass and Isaac Myers.

Pub Date: 9/10/97

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