That General Growth Properties has filed for bankruptcy protection under Chapter 11 shouldn't shock anyone. And the fact that the Columbia properties GGP owns aren't included in the filing, also shouldn't shock anyone.
Now that the other show has dropped, the spin machine on all sides of the downtown Columbia debate is at full blast. Proponents of development are talking about how the filing doesn't change the process, reassuring the public and other stakeholders that GGP will go on, business as usual, etc. Opponents of the development are talking about how the filing simply validates what they've been saying all along, that GGP is an unfit and undeserving owner of Columbia, how they can never follow through on any plan to redevelop Columbia, etc. There doesn't seem to be any middle ground emerging, at least not yet. This is still in the very early stages.
The key thing for citizens to do is to ignore all the spin. I think everyone can agree that GGP probably screwed up when it incurred huge debt to purchase Rouse's assets-- the inability to restructure that debt is a big reason why GGP had to file bankruptcy protection. However, GGP also realizes that it has a very valuable asset in Columbia, and I don't think there's any way on earth they're going to either let go or give up. At least not given the current state of the economy; if things even get worse, all bets may be off.
What this does highlight, however, is the need for the redevelopment plan for Columbia to be separable from GGP. It is looked on as "GGP's plan", which is not entirely true. Yes, GGP has put a lot of labor into the ZRA113 petition; however, there are large portions of that petition which are consistent with community-based processes to date (the downtown charette, the county's blueprint, etc.)
What we need to enact, therefore, is a redveelopment plan for Columbia that the community can be proud of, regardless of who the developer(s) may be. To the extent that this may require changes to ZRA 113, so be it. Given the tenuous state of GGP's finances, and due to GGP's desire to hold on to Columbia, they may very well be in a position to negotiate on the points which appear to cause the most community distress. Will any negotiated revised petition be acceptable to everyone? Of course not? But would it be a better petition? Most assuredly so.