Rouse ensures legacy of charity Court records show developer set aside $6.3 million in will

October 05, 1997|By Caitlin Francke | Caitlin Francke,SUN STAFF

James W. Rouse's vision of community and social service did not die with him last year.

The developer and social architect willed $6.3 million to charities he set up to create decent housing, schooling, job training and health care for needy Americans, according to records filed with the Howard County register of wills.

Rouse died at the age of 81 in April 1996, and these records spell out for the first time how he wanted to use some of his remaining wealth -- which already is producing results.

It has allowed his Enterprise Foundation Inc. to plan the creation of day care programs in seven cities as welfare-to-work legislation takes effect. It enabled a Washington housing program to pay mortgages on apartment buildings for low-income residents.

And the will substantially increases the money in the family charity, the Jim and Patty Rouse Charitable Foundation Inc., helping his family to carry on his community involvement.

"We grew up with an example of someone who was generous and warm to everybody," said Ted Rouse, 46, vice president of the foundation and, like his father, a developer.

The elder Rouse combined private enterprise with a strong social focus. He was one of the largest builders of regional shopping malls and built what he hoped would be a utopian society in Columbia. Rouse also stimulated urban revitalization through Baltimore's Harborplace, and he chose Sandtown-Winchester in West Baltimore for an Enterprise Foundation project to rehabilitate the poverty-stricken area.

The court records show that Rouse had a trust fund and an estate valued at $21 million at the time of his death.

That figure does not indicate his total worth, estate attorneys say, because anything he owned with his wife, Patricia, would not appear, nor would any property that he transferred to another person before his death.

More than a third of the money, about $8 million, was paid to his first wife, Elizabeth Rouse, the mother of his three children. The couple divorced in 1972.

After millions of dollars in taxes and expenses, the remaining money was given to family members and charities, according to the records.

His wife, Patricia, received $2.1 million. Rouse's seven grandchildren, including the actor Edward H. Norton Jr., each received $10,500. It is unclear from the records how much Rouse's two living children received.

The records represent an accounting of Rouse's estate and a trust fund he set up in 1990, which must be filed for tax purposes. They are filed with Rouse's will in the county's register of wills office, where they are being reviewed to determine that all taxes are properly calculated.

Lifetime of giving

The $6 million designated for charity only hints at the amount Rouse gave away in his lifetime, said Bart Harvey, chief executive officer of the Columbia-based Enterprise Foundation, which Rouse founded about 15 years ago to create affordable housing.

Rouse, who started the foundation with $1 million of his money, was often silent about his donations, Harvey said.

"He gave away huge chunks of money over time, but he did not like to talk about it," Harvey said. "A lot of people thought he was a lot richer than he was."

The two charities that received the bulk of the money are the Enterprise Foundation and the Jim and Patty Rouse Charitable Foundation, which were willed $3.2 million and $2.8 million, respectively.

Other organizations that received money include the Howard County Arts Council, for the Jim Rouse Theatre for the Performing Arts, $75,000; the University of Maryland Foundation Inc., $75,000; and Jubilee Housing Inc., a Washington aid program Rouse founded, $61,571.

Harvey said the money for the Enterprise Foundation will help to broaden its scope. The foundation, established in 1982, has invested $2 billion through 700 nonprofit agencies nationwide for affordable housing and other services.

Plans are under way for an assisted-living facility for low-income elderly people in Essex. Because legislation requiring welfare recipients to find jobs means parents will have to find someone to take care of their children while they're at work, Harvey said, the foundation is working with a private company to create day care options in seven cities.

Rouse believed strongly in getting people off public assistance, Harvey said, but Rouse also believed that people should be aided along the way.

With his will, Rouse seemed to pass the philanthropic torch to his family. The family charity -- which had little more than $1 million two years ago -- has nearly tripled.

Ted Rouse said the family foundation has traditionally given to smaller causes -- once buying instruments and uniforms for a Baltimore community marching band. He praised his father for bequeathing to his children the opportunity to be social benefactors.

Self-reliant philosophy

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