In Columbia, Everything Goes According to Plan
A peripatetic sort (or maybe I just get run out of town a lot), I’ve lived in three cities in the Washington, D.C., metro area with Columbia, MD, being the first.
A planned community of the first order, Columbia is a great place to raise kids, or even yourself, as its No.8 ranking on CNNMoney.com’s list of the “Best Places to Live” in 2008 will attest (Columbia shared the honor with nearby Ellicott City). In 2009, Forbes.com did CNN one better, ranking the city seventh on its list of “America’s Top 25 Towns to Live Well.”
Looking for apartments in Columbia? The town has everything you’d ever need to survive:
- Essentials: Shopping, grocery stores, gyms, schools, churches, parks and tree-lined sidewalks (you don’t exactly need them to survive, but I thought I’d throw them in anyway)
- Exercise: A whopping 93.5 miles of biking, jogging and walking pathways
- Extracurricular: There’s also an art center, teen center, summer camps, two golf courses, 23 outdoor swimming pools and one indoor swim center.
- Education: And to be totally exhaustive, the city also houses facilities for Howard Community College, University of Phoenix and Loyola College.
Developed by Howard Research and Development and its founder James Rouse in 1967, Columbia is an example of the post-WWII New Town Movement in the United States. Today, while the city itself remains unincorporated, each of its 10 villages has independent, incorporated residential community associations.
Nine of the villages have local retail centers with various businesses sprinkled about, all grouped around Town Center Village, which houses the Mall in Columbia. The 200-store mall is anchored by, among others, Nordstrom, Macy’s and Lord & Taylor, and also includes an AMC movie theater. The “downtown” village also features several businesses and restaurants, and sits on Lake Kittamaqundi, one of three lakes in Columbia. There is also a big, triangular retail corridor between Dobbin Road, Route 175 and Snowden River Parkway.
Columbia, the second largest city in Maryland, sits snugly between Baltimore and Washington, D.C., and is a little closer to the former. There are several population figures thrown around on the internet, with most being in the mid-to-upper 90 thousand range. For the record, the 2006-08 American Community Survey 3-Year Estimate puts Columbia’s population at 89,499. Either way, there are plenty of people here, and as a planned community, Columbia does a very good job of making each village feel like its own town.
Each year, the town hosts the Summer Lakefront Festival, a summer-long series of concerts and movies. And you can’t talk about concerts without giving a shout-out to Merriweather Post Pavilion, a world-famous amphitheater that regularly hosts national acts.
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