Red-in-the-Face Mall Management Bows to Poinsettia Tree Tradition

By Marc Fisher
Friday, December 14, 2007

C olumbia's beloved Poinsettia Tree will blossom again next Christmas.

Sentiment and the voice of the people beat out the forces of marketing and management as the owners of The Mall in Columbia, who this fall scrapped the 36-year tradition of putting up a 20-foot-tall metal frame festooned with 685 potted poinsettia plants, announced yesterday that the past is now as important as the future.

Forty-eight hours after mall manager Karen Geary said the tree "doesn't define the community," her new boss, Greg Hamm, who started work this week, announced that "we need to respect the past while also embracing future opportunity."

Hamm, who is heading up General Growth Properties' ambitious plan for a new Town Center in Columbia, did a full 180 from the company's position earlier in the week, which was that even though residents complained vociferously about the loss of their cherished holiday tradition, the decision to do away with the tree was final.

"I'm just overwhelmed," said Claire Lea, an organizer of a protest at the mall that drew a couple of hundred people Sunday. "They've demonstrated some respect for the community's voice, which can be strong. I had planned for this fight to be my activity for the next year. Now I'll have to look for something else to do."

© 2007 The Washington Post Company