Coming full circle in Columbia

Former Rouse Co. executive Godine is named general manager of town that he helped plan


For 17 years Douglas M. Godine worked for the Rouse Co., beginning in its infancy as the development company secretly bought acres of farmland in Howard County to transform them into a planned community.

After a decades-long hiatus, Godine is returning to the company -- which has since been bought by General Growth Properties Inc. -- to become general manager of Columbia, which he has seen sprout into a town of about 100,000 people.

"Columbia is a wonderful city; it's a miracle that it happened," said Godine, 71, of Cockeysville. "I think it's the most complete new town I've ever seen, and it works -- people live here; they work here; they recreate here; they raise their families here."

But the 38-year-old town has yet to reach its full potential, Godine said. Now that he is replacing Dennis W. Miller, who is resigning Friday after three years as Columbia's general manager, Godine is aiming to help turn Columbia's downtown into the urban center that it has never become.

"We want to make it a true Town Center, which in my opinion it is not today," he said. "Driving out here every day and seeing Town Center not being what it should be, it was just disturbing to me, because I felt that somewhere along the way we stopped moving forward and making Town Center a viable area."

Godine, who was hired March 23, said he does not yet have any specific ideas about how to transform the area, explaining, "I'm just throwing the first pitch out in the first inning."

He has not looked at the Town Center draft development master plan that Miller helped create or at the information that has come out of the county's weeklong October charrette, in which residents brainstormed development ideas for downtown Columbia.

The county has taken those ideas and turned them into a draft master plan that it hopes will reinvigorate Town Center.

The plan has yet to be taken to the county Planning Board or Zoning Board. The 30-year master plan for downtown Columbia lays the groundwork for 3,500 to 5,000 more homes; turning Symphony Woods into a kind of Central Park; and improved public transportation and pedestrian walkways intended to generate more foot traffic among businesses and homes.

To learn more about that plan, Godine said, he is setting up meetings with county leaders and also plans to meet with the community.

"I just think it's important that I get out in the county," he said. "I just feel like I have dealt all my life with county commissioners, planning and zoning and communities, so I really feel like I [am] well-equipped to handle those challenges."

Godine began working at Rouse in 1961 as a senior vice president overseeing the company's leasing, marketing and land sales in Columbia.

During his tenure, he participated in a number of meetings involving the early planing stages of the town, including discussions about naming roads, the placement of mailboxes and where retail and residential should be built.

"It was fun seeing this thing come out of the ground, evolving to a major force in the state," Godine said.

In 1978, Godine left to form his own development company, Godine and Stunda, which built shopping centers, hotels and offices. Some of the company's projects include the Loews Annapolis Hotel, Palmer Square in Princeton, N.J., and Station Square in Pittsburgh.

After working with his company for 27 years, he left and briefly worked for Prime Retail, one of the world's largest outlet developers.

In September, Godine was hired by General Growth -- which bought Rouse in 2004 -- as the development director for properties in Maryland and Virginia.

When Miller decided to step down from his position -- explaining that he wanted to spend more time with his family and plans to eventually again work in the real estate industry -- Godine was tapped for the job.

Godine, who has been married for 40 years, with three children (including a daughter who died in 1998) and five grandchildren, said he can't wait to get re-involved with Columbia and creating a downtown that he hopes will make the public proud.

"It's just with pride that I'm back involved in a great city," he said.

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