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Willard G. Rouse III, 60; Transformed Skyline of Philadelphia

May 29, 2003|From Associated Press

PHILADELPHIA — Willard G. Rouse III, the developer whose office towers transformed Philadelphia's skyline, has died, his company said Wednesday. He was 60.

Rouse died Tuesday night at his home after a 17-month battle with lung cancer, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported.

Rouse co-founded the company that became Liberty Property Trust -- one of the nation's largest real estate investment trusts -- and oversaw the development of Philadelphia's convention center, the largest public construction project in Pennsylvania.

He also helped orchestrate "We the People 2000," the city's bicentennial celebration of the Constitution.

Rouse properties include the Liberty Place skyscrapers, Philadelphia's tallest buildings; the Philadelphia Stock Exchange Building; and the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts.

The Liberty Place project caused civic debate because developers had historically observed an unofficial ban on buildings higher than the William Penn statue atop City Hall. The tip of the statue's hat is 548 feet high.

In 1985, however, Rouse won his battle, and two years later, the One Liberty became the first building in Philadelphia to break the height barrier, soaring to 947 feet. Today, the statue is all but obscured on the city skyline.

A native of Baltimore, Rouse graduated from the University of Virginia in 1966, and soon after was hired by Great Southwest Corp., a developer in Dallas.

In 1968, he joined Bernguil Co. where he oversaw the development of the Mid Atlantic Park in southern New Jersey before forming Rouse & Associates in 1972. That company in 1994 became Liberty Property Trust.

Rouse is survived by his wife, Susannah; eight children; two grandchildren; three sisters; and a brother.

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