Columbia, Maryland Began With The Simplest Yet Boldest of Ideas: That A City Could Enhance Its Residents' Quality Of Life.

Fireworks Columbia Photo courtesy of Howard County Recreation and Parks

Columbia was planned and developed by The Rouse Company, led by its founder James Rouse. Beginning with an idea and the purchase of more than 14,000 acres in the mid-1960s, it has reached its original population projection and in almost every other way has met the goals put forth in its original proposal and advertising.

James Rouse recruited nationally known experts in a wide array of disciplines to look at the possibilities – the optimum way to develop a community that would work best for the people who were to live there. This process produced a determination of the most vital social and institutional components of the new city and how they might best be reflected in a physical environment.

The development of Columbia was guided by four basic goals:

To build a complete city that meets the basic needs of its people including housing, jobs, recreation, educational and cultural institutions, health care, etc. In the more than 35 years since the first residents moved to Columbia the vital elements that make a city have been put into place. Today, Columbia has over 32,000 residential units ranging from subsidized apartments to single family home ranging in price from $160,000 to over $1 million. There are approximately 2800 businesses employing over 60,000 people and more than 500 stores and restaurants. There is a broad array of recreational facilities and services, a full range of educational institutions from preschool to graduate school, religious facilities, public transportation, health care, arts and entertainment and community facilities.

To respect the land. Rouse believed strongly that “there should be a strong infusion of nature throughout a network of towns; that people should be able to feel the spaces of nature as part of their everyday life.” Over 4700 acres have been set aside for parks, playgrounds and natural areas and more than 80 miles of pathways allow easy access for walkers, joggers and bike riders.

To provide for the growth of people. Rouse believed that “the ultimate test of civilization is whether or not it contributes to the growth — the improvement of mankind. Does it uplift, inspire, stimulate and develop the best in man? The most successful community would be that which contributed the most by its physical form, its institutions, and its operation to the growth of people.” The Columbia Association, the neighborhood and village design, the creation of the Columbia Foundation to provide seed money for non-profit organizations, and a philosophy of caring that permeates the community, help to create an atmosphere that allows personal growth and fosters a sense of community.

To make a profit. The success of Columbia is tied to its financial success. It was important that it be proven that good development could also be good for the developer. Every idea was plugged into the economic model to be sure that it could work. The combination of idealism and pragmatism made James Rouse and Columbia successful.

Columbia today is reaching completion, but Columbia will never be finished. Continuing dedication to keeping the community vital is a responsibility held by Columbia Association, General Growth Properties, Village Associations and other organizations and this drives the private sector to follow suit. A second generation is beginning to make Columbia home as the children of the early residents begin to raise families of their own. Columbia will be 40 years old in 2007. The history of Columbia is still being written.