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Reimagining The Suburbs

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Baltimore Metropolitan Council
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Anne Arundel County Executive Steuart Pittman and Greg Fitchitt, President for Columbia at the Howard Hughes Corporation, discuss how land use priorities and real estate development are reshaping suburban communities across the region.

The podcast is produced by the Baltimore Metropolitan Council, the council of local governments serving central Maryland, with assistance from WYPR.
 

Transcript

Tom Hall: Welcome to The Chesapeake Connect podcast. I'm Tom Hall. Chesapeake Connect is an annual learning trip that brings together leaders from around Baltimore to explore best practices and programs in a peer region. It's organized by the Baltimore Metropolitan Council, the council of governments serving greater Baltimore. The council has organized trips to Cleveland, New Orleans and Nashville in recent years.

 

Today on The Chesapeake Connect podcast, we're looking at the suburbs of the greater Baltimore region, how they're changing in the 21st century and what the future of suburban living development and transportation will look like. We're joined by Anne Arundel County executive Steuart Pittman and Greg Fitchitt, he's the president for Columbia at the Howard Hughes Corporation.

 

County Executive Pittman has represented Anne Arundel County on the BMC board since 2018. He attended the 2019 trip to Nashville. He's a lifelong agrarian and conservationist. After college, he coordinated national programs for the national low income housing coalition and ACORN, the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now. Before returning to Maryland to start his own business as a farmer and horse trainer, Greg Fitchitt is the regional president for Columbia, Maryland at the Howard Hughes Corporation. He attended all three Chesapeake Connect trips as a program sponsor. He's been in the real estate development field for more than 25 years. County Executive Pittman, welcome, sir. Good to talk to you.

 

Steuart Pittman: Thank you. Good to be here.

 

Tom Hall: Greg Fitchitt, welcome to you as well to The Chesapeake Connect podcast. Appreciate it.

 

Greg Fitchitt: Thank you, Tom.

 

Tom Hall: Greg, let me start with you. Development, of course, is a controversial issue throughout the Baltimore region, especially in the suburbs, so let's start there. You have worked on major developments across the country. You're managing a multi-billion dollar suburban development right now here in Maryland. What do you think are the markers of good development versus bad development?

 

Greg Fitchitt: Well, thank you for the question. To start with, it's great just to hear recognition that there is such thing as good development and bad development. A lot of people tend to think that all development is bad or at least that's the narrative that you hear a lot. Anyone who's been in this business for some period of time, there's a sort of a regular narrative amongst, what we call the NIMBY crowd, not in my backyard crowd, that all development is bad, development is the source of all sorts of problems and whether it's traffic or overcrowding or hurting the environment. But those of us who work in this field know that there is a big difference between good development and bad development.

 

A good development of which I'm proud to be a proponent of and proud to say that we're doing very much in Howard County with the downtown Columbia development is planned. It's thoughtful. It's smart. It adds to the community. It is comprehensive. It thinks about things. It thinks about transportation connections. It thinks about schools. It thinks about how are we going to fund infrastructure. Then it also brings things that are essential. It brings jobs. Job creation comes from development. We are always always in competition, particularly with Virginia, our friends to the south to try and bring jobs and bring companies and bring good companies and employment opportunities here to Howard County, here to the state of Maryland. Good development does that. Companies are in a huge competition to attract the workforce. How you attract the workforce today is to create environments that people want to live, work and play in. That's what we're doing in downtown Columbia.

 

It's a really important question, the difference between good and bad development. Bad development, I consider it to be unplanned and to be short-term thinking development. But that's not what we're doing in downtown Columbia.

 

Tom Hall: County Executive Pittman, I think Greg Fitchitt makes a good point that there is this narrative that all development is bad. I mean, there's a certain portion of the electorate that certainly thinks that. You ran for County executive on a slow growth, pro environment platform. How would you describe your vision for development in Anne Arundel County?

 

Steuart Pittman: Yeah, it's a really good question. It's been the most complicated part of governing in Anne Arundel County, because as you say, a lot people think that development is bad, period. I wouldn't even describe the platform that I ran on is slow growth. I like to think of it as managed growth, smart growth even, old overused term that I think still applies, but it's pretty simple. I mean, when I was a community organizer in neighborhoods that were really under under invested and in difficult shape, we tried hard to bring investment and development into those neighborhoods. I would call that good development when you get a grocery store into a neighborhood that doesn't have one, or you get a bunch of abandoned houses torn down and and build some multi-family housing even, that is affordable and good quality.

 

Bad development is where there's no infrastructure and the environment is destroyed. You take a forest along the water. You tear down the trees. You build a bunch of suburban homes. There's no road to handle the traffic. There's no schools for the kids. There's terrible storm water system. You have all of these nutrients going into the bay. That's bad development to the extreme.

 

In between there, there are the regulations and the government cooperation and the community input to ensure that at least there are rules that everybody follows that really do ensure that some public need is being met. It's a fascinating topic. While people think I'm, anti-development, I think in another life, I could easily have been a developer or a planner, because it's really exciting to build the good stuff that improves people's quality of life, but at the same time, to preserve nature and our relationship to it and improve the quality of everybody's lives with the right kind of development and managed growth.

 

Tom Hall: Greg Fitchitt, County Executive makes an excellent point about whether you call it slow growth or smart growth, certainly the Baltimore region, and in this way, it's like many places around the country, but our region has had an explosion of suburban growth over the past, I don't know, four or five decades to be sure. Talk about how that growth has played out in Columbia, the upside, the downside and what it's meant for that area.

 

Greg Fitchitt: Sure. It's really, it has been transformative. Howard County has been one of the fastest growing areas of the region, really for the last 50 plus years, in large part due to Columbia. Columbia, which we have the great benefit of having Jim Rouse, who is the founder of Columbia. He created the idea of Columbia. He's the father of master plan communities, but Columbia really was different and is different today, because Jim Rouse saw Columbia as a reaction to some of the things that he saw as problems, the unplanned suburban growth that was happening in the post-war era, as well as the challenges that were happening inside the cities, inside Baltimore. He worked in Baltimore. He really created Columbia to be a different sort of city.

 

He believed that if you plan things directly, in the right way, and you're thoughtful about it, you could create a place that would actually uplift the human spirit, allow people to reach their full human potential. He did many things in order to do that. He brought together a group of people, not just architects and planners, but he brought together sociologists and academics, experts in religion and government and healthcare. Brought them all together to say, "Let's design this new place, this new city of Columbia, let's design it for the people. Let's design the city for the people." That's a tradition that I think has really been the reason why Columbia has been the success that it has been, consistently ranked as one of the top small cities in the country to live in. It's got great quality of life, great schools, great open space. It really is because it was thoughtfully planned. We're pleased to be able to continue that tradition today.

 

The Howard Hughes Corporation is actually the successor to the Rouse Company in Columbia. With the downtown Columbia plan, we really look at how we can bring those values and bring that tradition of planned and thoughtful and smart development to what we're doing in the downtown Columbia area today.

 

Tom Hall: Steaurt Pittman, of course, Anna Arundel County has also experienced a huge boom in development over the past many years. I'm thinking in particular about road expansions and development and stuff around the airport, BWI. In your view, what has suburban growth looked like for Anne Arundel County? What's working? What isn't? What are you happy about? What do you wish you get to do over with, or at least what do you wish will inform your next moves when it comes to development?

 

Steuart Pittman: Yeah, there has been a lot of development in Anne Arundel County. Part of it is for a good reason, which is that there's been job growth, which is a real luxury, relative to Fort Meade and NSA and all the contractors and that we have a busy airport as well. Former county executives have called it the gold coast in West County where a lot of the development has taken place. But what's happened is that for the average resident of the county, this what they call development pressure. Every piece of land in the County is been looked at by potential developers, speculators. 51% of our county is actually considered rural, and so there's all of that land and then there's land near the water, and then there's areas that could be redeveloped, but that's usually a little bit more expensive for the developer.

 

The development has happened. It's been largely suburban type development. There's been some multi-family more recently. The sense is that the county didn't manage it in that there are neighborhoods with no sidewalks. We have train stations, Laurel Odenton and then the stations coming from the light rail coming out of Baltimore, the end of the line is Cromwell Station. Development efforts haven't really succeeded in those the way they were expected. Odenton Town Center has what they call sidewalks to nowhere. We really wish we'd had a Rouse or Hughes Corporation, I think, in Odenton to really plan that community and do it right. But we didn't. A lot of the plans that were developed, we had small area plans that communities were engaged in across the county, and then these general development plans, 20 year plans, we're in the process of doing that again right now.

 

A lot of that work was set aside on a shelf. What happened was that the regulations that were in place, the developers created an and the politicians created a system where you circumvent them with modifications. Those get approved by the Office of Planning and Zoning. They often go to the county executive. He looks at who gave him campaign checks. I mean, it sounds horrible, but this is really the way it has worked and thousands and thousands of these modifications, so the public looks at that. They say, "How did this development get put in this location where clearly we had a plan that said we were going to preserve that land?" People start to lose trust. They lose trust in government. They lose trust in their leaders. They start to say that developers are just bad and all development is bad.

 

We should have done a better job with adequate public facilities. We did an impact fee study that recommended for road impact fees should be double what they were, but the politicians did half of that. Now the public is saying, "Well, why aren't we keeping up with our roads? Why aren't we doing the infrastructure? Why do we have to go back and build sidewalks?" The key is to do the infrastructure along with the development or in advance of the development and make sure you have the funding for it and calculate the true costs of the development and provide the parks and all the amenities that people want. Good development is where you put it. You can make an area good for development. But what we ended up with, and a lot of the frustration is that there are parts, particularly of West County where a lot of that development happened, where we've not kept up with the other amenities. People are now asking for those amenities, and we're having to deliver, and it's expensive. That's our challenge.

 

Tom Hall: Greg Fitchitt, certainly one of the hallmark of Jim Rouse's vision for Columbia was that it be a diverse community. Inclusion, diversity where were made priorities in the development even before the passage of the Fair Housing Act in 1968. What did this focus on inclusion mean for the development of Columbia?

 

Greg Fitchitt: We're so fortunate to be able to have had Jim Rouse and his thinking back in the early '60s. The '60s were a time of incredible turmoil, which continues to echo on today in the events that we saw last year with the murder of George Floyd and with the awakening that racial injustice is still pervasive throughout the country. And so we have this great tradition in Columbia that we would be an intentionally inclusive community. It's great. I mean, there's so many stories. The first baby, for example, in Columbia, was born to an interracial couple, a couple that had to go to DC to get married, because it wasn't legal to be married in Maryland if you were an interracial couple at the time.

 

Jim Rouse really took this idea of he wanted this to be a progressive and inclusive place, and he designed the community to almost force that. Again, at the time, back in the late '60s, it was very common for developers to purposely only sell to certain racial groups and to exclude others. Jim Rouse said, "You're not going to be allowed to do that. If I catch you doing it, you won't be sold another lot in the development of Columbia." He enforced that.

 

He also designed the community in ways that encouraged interaction. For example, and my favorite example is the lots, the single family home lots in Colombia for the most part are designed to be, they're too small to fit a pool in the backyard. Meantime, Rouse put the most, we have actually the most pools, the most outdoor neighborhood pools per capita of anywhere in the United States in Columbia. He did that to make sure that people wouldn't just congregate with their neighbors that they were used to in their backyard, segregated. Everybody in the summer, every kid in the neighborhood was forced if you want to go in the pool, you had to go in the same pool. The same pool that every kid of every color, every religion was in the same pool splashing and having a great time and getting to know each other.

 

That's a great example of how this purposeful and thoughtful and planed design can actually have really incredibly important social benefits. It's a tradition that we are really pleased to include, to continue today. One of the most important ways, I would say, is with affordable housing. Again, Rouse was very focused. He was a leader in affordable housing. He did affordable housing before it was necessary, before it was a requirement to do it. Then he went on after the Rouse company to found Enterprise, which is one of the leaders in affordable housing finance, and development in the country, still headquartered in Columbia today.

 

We've continued that tradition with what we came up with in 2016, a really thoughtful and creative solution for affordable housing in downtown Columbia. Ultimately, we'll have, of the 6,200 units we're going to build in downtown Columbia, 900 of them will be affordable. That is full income spectrum, so all the way from very low income units up to moderate income units. It's integrated with the housing, with the market rate housing. It's also integrated with public projects, such as the new cultural center, which was just approved earlier this year by the Howard County Council, so that tradition of making sure that the community is economically integrated, as well as racially integrated is something that's really essential to the DNA of Columbia and something we're proud to continue.

 

Tom Hall: County Executive Pittman, you mentioned, basically half of Anne Arundel County is considered rural, but by the next census, it's very possible that Anna Arundel may actually have more residents than Baltimore City. As Anne Arundel County and the surrounding jurisdictions have grown, Baltimore City continues to lose population. Obviously, a lot of those folks are going to the suburbs. What does that shift mean for regional dynamics and specifically, the relationship between Anne Arundel County and Baltimore city?

 

Steuart Pittman: Well, it's terrible for Baltimore City, because the tax tax base suffers. One of the things that I love about the Baltimore Metropolitan Council and getting together with my peers in the other counties and having those open lines of communication is we have the opportunity to coordinate on policy, as the development community does operate regionally. I think we all have, at this point right now, we have a great relationship with the city current mayor, former mayor. I really believe that we could think about policy in ways that regionally encourage more development in Baltimore City. We need to attract development into Baltimore City. It doesn't mean we're going to shut down for development in the suburbs. We absolutely need to have better transportation networks between them. Losing the red line was a real blow to Baltimore City.

 

Things like forest conservation, when I first came in and we worked on that and Howard County was working on it, Frederick County was working, we didn't actually talk to each other about it as much as we should, the County leaders. We should, because we could do something consistent and have consistent rules across the region. Then some of those rules would make it a little bit more difficult, I think, or more expensive to develop in areas with natural resources that we want to protect. That in itself, can make Baltimore maybe a better option in some ways.

 

Baltimore City has gotten into a very difficult position where they need to attract developments, so they have to provide financial incentives for that development with tax breaks. But then they don't get the tax base that they need to be able to provide their services. It's not a new problem. It happens all over the country. But I think, more regional cooperation can help to solve that problem. We need a thriving Baltimore City, and that helps the whole region.

 

Tom Hall: Yeah, I think you've outlined one of the central problems really, really clearly. Greg Fitchitt, of course, for half a century or so, the suburbs have been synonymous with expansion, but when Howard Hughes started working with Columbia, the community was largely built out. Give us a sense of how you have approached replanning the model of Columbia.

 

Greg Fitchitt: Yeah, it's very interesting, because we took over when the, again, the residential part of the massive planned community, the single family homes, the villages were largely completed and largely built out. What we really are focused on is creating the urban center. Howard County has all these great benefits. It's got an incredibly educated and affluent workforce, great schools, great benefits, but it's been missing a true urban center. That's what we are in the process of building.

 

It really speaks to a change in the dynamic when a community has been largely built out. The focus has to change if the community wants to continue to grow. It has to change from greenfield development to infill development. Our project with downtown Columbia is infill development on a very large and ambitious scale. It's 14 million square feet. It's a 30 year plan, a $5 billion plan to recreate the area that was really dominated by a mall, a traditional urban form or suburban form from the '70s and '80s, to recreate the area around that into a walkable urban core. It's exciting. I think it's a blueprint for how other communities will evolve and will continue to grow in this infill manner.

 

It's all about taking and integrating what we know about development, what's important about development and bringing that into an infill situation. We're talking about how do we develop sustainable. Sustainability is integral to everything that we do. All of our buildings are at minimum LEED Silver certified. Our last two have been LEED Gold certified. Our neighborhood, in the [inaudible 00:22:56] where the district is a LEED for Neighborhood Development Certified project. That's integral to everything.

 

Making sure that people have transportation choices. Yes, we are still largely dependent on the automobile, but we have to give people choices. We have to improve the transit connections to places like Anne Arundel County to Fort Meade to Baltimore city to the South to Silver Spring and to the DC area. Then on a micro level, we have to make sure that people can, if they don't want to get into their car, that they can have a good choice for taking a bike or walking or taking scooters. I'm really excited that the Howard County Council recently approved scooters for downtown Columbia. We're working with a scooter company. Hopefully, we'll see that come to town later this year. Transportation choices are important.

 

It really is about, again, looking at, focusing back in, on area that has been previously developed. I mean, the mall for example, is surrounded by acres and acres and acres of asphalt parking lot. We have acres and acres of asphalt parking lot in our Lakefront district. We're in the process of transforming that into a walkable, urban neighborhood. The Lakefront specifically focused on health and wellness, integrating fitness, integrating healthy eating, integrating medical offices and office, along with residences, all types for people, both workforce housing and for age restricted housing, all of those components. I think that is a model for how Columbia and Howard County really has to change in order to continue to grow. The villages of Columbia, again, most have been built out now for 20 or 30 or even 40 years, and everything has to continue to be invested in.

 

I think one of the things that I say about real estate is there is no status quo. You're either investing and you're improving things, or you're not investing. If you're not investing, then you're declining. There is no, you just can't keep things the same. If you try and keep things the same, that means you're declining. And so I think that the Villages of Columbia, which have a great tradition and many of them are extremely desirable places to live, they need to figure out how to revitalize and how to encourage reinvestment if Columbia wants to sustain the success that has had over its first 50 years.

 

Tom Hall: Yeah, and County Executive Pittman, that's a good point. Let's talk a little bit more about your take on smart growth. Obviously, development is a major driver of revenue for all local governments. It fuels employment, et cetera. But you got to balance the need for development and that revenue and those jobs with a commitment to preserving and protecting Anne Arundel's natural resources. How do you approach that tension?

 

Steuart Pittman: Well, I'm lucky in the timing of my being elected two years ago, which is right along with the beginning of our process of creating our Plan 2040, our general development plan. I was endorsed by the environmental folks, of course, and had a certain amount of credibility with a lot of those, the community groups around the county. We brought in old Governor Paris Glendening and Smart Growth America. We spent a Saturday in May with 200 people in the room, I was shocked they showed up, talking about what smart growth means and how you can preserve open space by going ahead and doing transit oriented development and high density, multi-use developments.

 

The interesting thing is that the way that the county and the way most jurisdictions did zoning, all you could in kind of zoning where you separate out your residential from your commercial and your entertainment and office and everything else and industrial, it requires people to drive everywhere. It makes it impossible to develop what Greg is talking about in Columbia. That would be illegal. It's against the law in Anne Arundel County to do anything like that. Well, we need to change our laws to get with the times.

 

It's really been fascinating going through the process and talking both to developers and environmental folks and planners in particular about what we can do with our code to make it possible for us to do the transit oriented development that we want to do in Odenton or the Cromwell Station or even around the airport and these community benefit districts that create some flexibility as long as there's some community benefit and planning or form-based code, where you really get specific about how things are going to be planned, but you engage the community in the process, which if it's the right kind of development in the right place, you actually get community support for it, and so that's the direction we're moving.

 

I'm really excited about what we put forth. It really does, it focuses on the kind of development that I think younger people are looking for, affordable housing, which we absolutely need for younger people, as well as older people and people who work in our businesses. That stuff was not talked about in my county for a long time. You couldn't even talk about multifamily housing. Everything had to be suburban style. I think people are getting past that. I'm certainly way beyond that. I think our plan is way beyond that. We've done a bunch of legislation having to do with workforce housing and affordable housing. The question is whether you can survive politically on that, and I think we're getting there. I think our residents are are figuring this out. I feel like we're, we're moving forward.

 

Tom Hall: Yeah, and Greg Fitchitt, let's talk about that generational dimension to all of this. What are the challenges of designing and planning for communities that meet the needs of baby boomers, who are aging and those younger families who, as you mentioned, want walkable, bikeable amenities, that kind of stuff. How do you balance those two things?

 

Greg Fitchitt: It's interesting. It's actually easier than you might think. In fact, there's a saying in our business, at least the residential, the multifamily business, that if you designed for the millennials, you'll get the baby boomers, because people want the same thing. They want to be able to walk down to a couple of great restaurants or your local bar, walk to shops, walk to services, walk around the lake, be connected to nature. That's not really, it doesn't matter if you're 22 or 82, you want the same things. We've actually seen that born out. We've developed now over 1200 units in downtown Columbia in four multifamily buildings.

 

We're actually breaking ground this week on our next project named Marlow, another 470 units. We've seen it. We've designed them to be really great, highly amenitized buildings. They're equally attractive to baby boomers as to millennials and as to gen Z. If you're single or if you're ... The thing is that the folks who are less attracted to them are the people who have young and kids. If you've got a household with two or three or four kids, you can afford to buy it or rent a single family home, or a townhouse in Howard County and you'll get a lot more space and you can have a yard and you have maybe a yard for your dog. It's hard to do that in a multi-family development.

 

Designing for all ages is really easier than you think. It's important to have housing choices, so that's one thing that we are working on is figuring out how to broaden the offering. I mean, we're not going to be building townhomes or single family homes in downtown Columbia, but that doesn't mean there shouldn't be a lot of, there's a lot of different product choice that can be available within multifamily. Right now, what we've been designing for the most part are very highly amenitized and relatively expensive apartments, very, very nice apartments. We do integrate now affordable housing into those buildings, but the product type is pretty consistent and similar.

 

We want to expand that, so we've continually been looking at condominium development. We would like to be able to offer for sale product in the multi-family space, so condominium buildings. We're also looking at both age restricted and age targeted housing, so how do we build something that is, again, directly targeting the 55 plus population. I mean, of course we have lots of 55 plus renters in our mixed age buildings, but we think there is a market for an age restricted building or age targeted buildings. Then also broadening the appeal to how do we develop market rate, affordable housing, small a affordable housing or attainable housing?

 

There's a lot of people, I mean, again, most of the things that we've designed tend to be $2,000 a month or higher monthly rental rate. We know there's a huge pool of renters, people who would like to live in downtown Columbia, like to have access to all those amenities, all the walkability, all the restaurants and parks, et cetera, but they can't afford to pay that much for rent, so we're looking at how do we design a unit that is a market rate, affordable unit to give more access people to downtown Columbia.

 

All those differentiation of product type is really a way to expand the market and address the needs and desires of everybody from the 21 year old to the 91 year old, all of whom want to, and should be able to live in downtown Columbia. It's part of the original vision of, again, back to Jim Rouse, he wanted Columbia to be a city that was accessible to everyone, regardless of your economic class, regardless of race or religion. One of his famous sayings was that Columbia should be a place where both the CEO and the janitor could live in the same neighborhood. That's something that, again, a value that we take very seriously and I believe are bringing to life in what we're doing today.

 

Tom Hall: Steaurt Pittman, assess how the pandemic has impacted Anne Arundel County so far and how you see it moving forward, transforming the county longterm.

 

Steuart Pittman: It's so important to recognize that it has had this disparate impact and that folks who can work at home can work at home and keep their jobs. It's the frontline folks who have had, I think I saw a study that showed that if you're in the bottom quarter of income, you are eight times more likely to have lost your job in this pandemic economy than if you're at the top. But it has impacted everybody. It's impacted the economy. It's mostly impacted the entertainment sector restaurants, hospitality. It potentially impacts the long-term what we're talking about, the way people live.

 

One of the positive benefits of course, is that a lot of folks are working from home. People are figuring out that you can have a meeting without everybody getting in a car and going to the same location or in an airplane for that matter. I know people who, one guy was telling me his business has dropped in revenue, but increased in profits, because of the money saved by having people working from home. That could potentially impact what we do. We could end up with vacant both commercial and office space that needs to be transitioned into other uses, and so there are all kinds of potential.

 

I think the planners are just starting to wrap their heads around it, and people are trying to figure out how much of this is going to be permanent and stick. I mean, just question of third span on the Bay Bridge is one that recently arose that there've been conversations about whether there really is a need for a third span, because part of the need was based on development on the eastern shore that they were projecting. Well, maybe there won't be that kind of development, or if there is that kind of development, maybe those folks will be working from home and not crossing the bridge, so they have to recalibrate all those numbers.

 

Tom Hall: Yeah, that's really interesting. Revenue down but profits up because of expenses. That's really fascinating. Greg Fitchitt, you have attended all of the Chesapeake Connect trips. What are some of the things that you've learned during those trips?

 

Greg Fitchitt: Well, it's just I was so disappointed that, of course, we didn't do it in 2020 because of the pandemic. We were going to go to Minneapolis in November, which might sound like, maybe I guess, no one's going to accuse us of going on a boondoggle if we're going to Minneapolis in November. I was really looking forward to it, because I have been on each of the trips so far.

 

It's really unexpected things that are really fun about the trips. The first one, I'll say, was an unexpected event just trying to get there that didn't seem like that much fun at the time, but it ended up being a great bonding experience. We all basically got trapped with weather events and stuck trying to get to Cleveland out of Baltimore. We ended up flying and flying up to Philadelphia and then coming back. It was just a total mess, but I know that I ended up Senator, now Senate President, Bill Ferguson was on the trip and Bill Cole. A number of us all had that same experience. That's a bonding event that you'll never forget when you were trying to figure out, it was like planes, trains, and automobiles, trying to get to Cleveland before midnight, so that kind of thing.

 

It's just the kind of, again, unexpected opportunities to meet people who are leaders in their field, who are leaders in the greater Baltimore region. You get to get out of town and understand what are the challenges and what are the opportunities that other cities face. It's really just a really unique way to be able to see a different place, learn about a different place, really in depth with a lot of other very smart, engaged leaders in the Baltimore region in a very quick period of time. I'm looking forward to 2021. I'm not sure if it's still going to be Minneapolis or not, but wherever it is, it's going to be a very exciting and interesting experience, I'm sure.

 

Tom Hall: Yeah, and Steaurt Pittman, we've heard that from other folks here on the podcast, the importance of those personal connections. You went to Nashville on the Chesapeake Connect trip in 2019. What are some of your takeaways from that experience?

 

Steuart Pittman: What was fascinating was that we went into the city, a bunch of smart people coming from different perspectives, and we got to hear from the city leaders, both private sector and public sector, and see a city growing like it's on steroids. I actually took a little video out. I got lucky and I got a corner room in the hotel, pretty high up with windows on both sides. I took a video, You could see about 10 cranes all operating at the same time as that city was exploding with growth.

 

Hearing the perspective of the people who were excited about the growth and have promoted it and made it happen, and then some of the other people who are trying to manage that growth at the same time, and then going up into some neighborhoods that were historically African-American communities where people have been displaced and just looking at somebody else's city and hearing from their leaders all in a span of two days, it's fascinating. It's like going into a lab. Then you think about the lessons that you learned for back home. I learned a lot by going to Nashville. I'm looking forward to hopefully Minneapolis, if it's not there, somewhere else and seeing what they've done, right, and maybe not done right.

 

Tom Hall: That's Anne Arundel County Executive Steaurt Pittman. Mr. Pittman, thank you for your time. I appreciate it and look forward to the next time.

 

Steuart Pittman: Thank you. It's been fun.

 

Tom Hall: Greg Fitchitt is the president for Columbia at the Howard Hughes Corporation. Thank you to you as well, sir.

 

Greg Fitchitt: Thank you. Enjoyed it.

 

Tom Hall: The Chesapeake Connect podcast is produced by the Baltimore Metropolitan Council with assistance from WYPR. The Baltimore Metropolitan Council works collaboratively with our region’s elected executives to identify mutual interests and develop collaborative strategies, plans, and programs that improve our quality of life and economic vitality. BMC's member jurisdictions include Baltimore city and Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Carol Hartford, Howard, and Queen Anne's Counties. For more information, please visit baltimoremetro.org. That's baltometro.org. Our producer is Mark Gunnery.

 

Our next episode of The Chesapeake Connect podcast, we're going to talk about regionalism in the 21st century with Donald Fry, the President and CEO of the Greater Baltimore Committee and Carroll County Commissioner, Steve Wantz. Until then, I'm Tom Hall. Thanks so much for connecting.