ULI Baltimore Bulletin

Lifetime Achievement Award: Bill Struever’s Acceptance Speech


An Apology, 3 Blessings, and a Challenge

An Apology— In 2008, the world fell down around our heads with 15 million in our active development pipeline. Our attempt at a global restructure failed and after a frenetic 4 days preparing for a bankruptcy filing, I couldn’t face abandoning ship. In 2009, a bankruptcy would be a total wipeout for all. We joined with partners, lenders, vendors, and communities that believed in us, to get projects completed as best we could, working through our travails and learning humility at a massive scale.

Of that 15 million square feet, I’m proud to say that, with one project exception, all are under construction or complete. I feel the deepest gratitude for all those who hung in there with us and offer a profound, heartfelt apology for those that were hurt.

3 Blessings—
Blessing 1— Our people—One of our great legacies is the amazing people on our team with us now or those who have moved on to do great things. Your good works inspire me.

Blessing 2–Our users and customers—Our work is all about the people and organizations where we team to capture their aspirations by creating terrific facilities and delightful environments transformed from falling apart old buildings and despairing neighborhoods. Examples abound of the magical array of opportunities we’ve had–Annie Degroot and Clinica Esperanza in Providence, Burt’s Bees in Durham, Spike Gjerde at Woodberry Kitchen (before anyone had heard of “farm to table”), Humanim at American Brewery and, today, with Eastern Shore Land Conservancy at the Packing House, Gary Rodwell at the Hebrew Orphans Asylum (the American Brewery of the West Side) and Karen Stokes with the Center for Neighborhood Innovation at Hoen Lithograph. How lucky we are.

Blessing 3–Our collective impact of our people and our users in making the world a better place.– Together, we make a difference.

A Challenge— America is in peril. The forces that threaten to tear the fabric of our society apart are immense. The big challenges that confront our democracy—race, poverty, economic opportunity and public education—will be won or lost in our cities.

I got energized in this business long ago. I remember the National Guard standing with rifles on my street corner during the 1968 riots in Rochester. I dropped out of high school the next year. Jane Jacobs’ Life and Death of Great American Cities inspired me and got me fired from my first job at the Rochester Urban Renewal Agency. The boss got tired of me speaking up—“Why are we destroying this neighborhood?”. Speaking up and getting in trouble is my trademark to this day.

Looking back at our work in Baltimore over the last 43 years, I’m proud of our accomplishments across our city. My brother Fred says no place in the city is more than a couple blocks from one of our projects. However, our big impact in transforming neighborhoods—Federal Hill, Locust Point, Fells Point, Canton, Highlandtown, Woodberry and Charles Village—was at the harbor and white Baltimore. While some of our greatest projects—American Brewery, Lexington Terrace—were in East and West Baltimore, the progress over our 43 years in Baltimore left big parts of the City behind.

The future of Baltimore lies in our ability to confront the problems of East and West Baltimore with courage and passion. For our City’s ultimate prosperity, the transformation of the proposed Choice Neighborhood for Perkins Homes, Somerset, and Oldtown in East Baltimore is as important as Amazon’s HQ2.

Jim Rouse loved to say that there was no such thing as a problem, for a problem is but a challenge and a challenge is an opportunity in disguise.

Please join me in transforming this grave problem of Two Baltimore’s and Two America’s into a challenge and on to an opportunity—and a great future for our fair City – THANKS

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