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 of lung cancer, the company said.
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.
"Bill was, simply, our hero," said Bill Hankowsky, who took over as the trust's CEO after Rouse stepped down in January. "He cannot be replaced, but the culture of this company is indelibly stamped with his uniquely moral view of the individual's place in the corporation and the corporation's responsibility to the world."
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 sparked 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, 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.
His uncle, James Rouse, an urban visionary who created some of the first shopping malls and brought retailing back to America's downtowns with waterfront developments, died in 1996.