The Moss-Rouse Company was founded as a FHA mortgage company with a loan from Hunter Moss's sister. Rouse leveraged his knowledge as loan guarantee specialist at the Federal Housing Administration to establish a Baltimore-based mortgage company specializing in FHA backed loans. Moss-Rouse hired a World War Two Navy friend, Churchill G. Carey from Connecticut General, who in turn provided capital for future projects. Carey would hold positions ranging from president to CEO of the mortgage company subsidiary. In 1952-1953 the company built one of the first modern architecture office buildings on Saratoga Street in Baltimore while also dropping its commercial lending business line. Jim Rouse hired his brother, Willard G. Rouse, II, in 1952 and partner Hunter Moss phased out of operations selling his shares of the company while remaining temporarily on the board of directors. The firm was renamed the James W. Rouse & Company, Inc. with Rouse owning 50% equity, His brother Willard 10%, and 40% to company officers.
The James W. Rouse Company built some of the first enclosed shopping malls, and it pioneered the development of festival marketplaces, such as Jacksonville Landing in Jacksonville, Faneuil Hall in Boston, South Street Seaport in New York City, Harborplace in Baltimore, and Bayside Marketplace in Miami. They also developed The Shops at National Place in downtown Washington, D.C. that opened in 1984-85.
On 20 June 1966, The James W. Rouse Company was renamed to The Rouse Company. The company has been credited as the pioneer of the first successful food court in an enclosed shopping mall, when the food court at the Sherway Mall in Toronto opened for business in 1971. It followed an unsuccessful attempt at the Plymouth Meeting Mall in 1968, which reportedly failed because it was "deemed too small and insufficiently varied."
Its community projects include the Village of Cross Keys in Baltimore and the planned cities of Columbia, Maryland (where it was headquartered), Bridgeland Community, Texas, and Summerlin, Nevada. To develop these projects, in 1962 Rouse brought on Bill Finley, who built a planned "company town", Ravenswood, West Virginia, was a former planner with the National Capital Planning Commission proposing planned cities, and was a proponent of public-private partnerships.