Michael T. Rose, 63, one of most prominent developers in the Washington area, who was well known for preserving trees, using environmentally sensitive materials and building accessible housing, died of a brain tumor Feb. 23 at his home in Potomac.
Mr. Rose, owner of the Laurel-based Michael T. Rose Family of Companies, won awards from conservation, government and industry groups for developing housing while keeping mature trees in place, building waterfront condominiums on pilings instead of slabs to reduce grading and clearing, and working for regulations that allow builders to use environmental principles in construction.
When he started his firm in 1975, he pressured the Prince George's County government to change its grading standards so builders could retain trees that would otherwise be felled. By the mid-1980s, he helped the county rewrite its tree ordinance, which has become a national model.
Among the subsequent projects Mr. Rose's firms have developed are mixed-use planned communities as well as custom houses in Anne Arundel, Calvert, Howard, Montgomery and Prince George's counties in Maryland, and in Fairfax, Loudoun and Stafford counties in Virginia. Design amenities in Northridge, his 1988 development in Bowie, for example, included a man-made lake, traffic islands and narrower clearances around homes to save trees, as well as a grass-lined drainage system.
He was honored by the Izaak Walton League of America, the Audubon Naturalist Society, the National Arbor Day Foundation and, in May, the National Association of Home Builders for crafting its environmental policies and for pushing the industry into the era of electronic communications.
"He always seems to be a step ahead of the rest of us in knowing where the market might be heading," NAHB President David Pressly said at the time, "and he's always willing to speak his mind -- even when it goes against conventional wisdom."
Mr. Rose wrote the preface to "Building Greener Neighborhoods" (1995), a book sponsored by American Forests, a nonprofit conservation group, and the NAHB.
A paraplegic since he was shot in the spine in 1978, Mr. Rose led the local housing industry into building with universal design principles, which make houses accessible for people with or without disabilities. His own home in Potomac was built with no-stair entries, wide hallways, spacious bathrooms and varying ceiling heights, which give the visual effect that rooms are at different levels.
Mr. Rose was born in Jacksonville, Fla., and grew up in the Los Angeles area. While attending California State University at Northridge, he took a real estate job. "I was persistent," he told The Washington Post in 1987. "I always had a goal. I would focus on that goal, complete it, then refocus."
He sold houses and in a few years was national vice president with the Larwin real estate firm. By 1975, after moving to Bethesda to work for the Carl M. Freeman Co. of Olney, he decided to go into business for himself. His first project was a luxury townhouse development in Laurel, with cathedral ceilings and skylights. All 120 houses sold, which stunned developers who didn't think people would buy upscale homes in Laurel.
A classic workaholic, intense with cool blue eyes, Mr. Rose was at the office 12 hours every day. One day in 1978, a troubled employee approached him, grabbed him in a bear hug and shot him in the spine, paralyzing him from the hips down. Hospitalized for six months, then in rehabilitation for another six months, Mr. Rose said the hardest part was "trying to convince the banks not to pull the plug on somebody who was handicapped."
He had hundreds of houses in development while he relearned basic skills, and some subcontractors quit, Mr. Rose said, because "they couldn't deal with somebody in a wheelchair."
He returned to work, resumed his bruising schedule and added charity work, and grew the company from its initial four employees to 31 today. His developments have added $2.5 billion to the tax base of area counties since 1975, his Web site says.
Mr. Rose served on the board of the directors of the American Paralysis Association and was a founding director of the National Coordinating Council of Spinal Cord Injury. For eight years, he was on the board of the National Organization on Disabilities. He was also chairman of the President's Advisory Committee on Housing for Handicapped Families for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Survivors include his wife of 40 years, Carol Rose of Potomac; two sons, Marc Rose of Potomac and Greg Rose of San Diego; a brother; and three grandchildren.