Revitalization of Columbia

Columbia has had a storied history. Founded in 1967, it was heralded for its social ideals and progressive development practices. It was called the “Next America” and studied by urban planners across the country. Its founder, James W. Rouse, attained a national reputation for his vision of Columbia – “the model city.”

Nearly 50 years have passed since people started settling in Columbia’s villages, suburban-style communities with a variety of housing options, neighborhood schools and cul-de-sacs. The core of Columbia was dominated by Merriweather Post Pavilion and The Mall in Columbia, a popular and successful shopping center, but the rest of the downtown area was underdeveloped.

Through a public-private partnership, planning for Downtown Columbia began in 2005. After five years of community input, the Downtown Columbia Plan, an amendment to the Howard County General Plan, was unanimously approved and adopted by the Howard County Council in February of 2010, as the revitalization and redevelopment plan for Downtown Columbia.  Later that year, The Howard Hughes Corporation took over the role as master developer for the revitalization efforts.

The Plan specifically addresses approximately 390 acres of property in the center of Columbia, where mixed use development will include residences, office buildings, stores and restaurants, hotels, entertainment venues, cultural and civic institutions as well as parks and other natural amenities.

The new development is projected to include:

  • 6,244 residential units, including 900 units of affordable housing
  • 640 hotel rooms
  • 1.25 million square feet of new retail
  • 4.3 million square feet of commercial/office use
  • More than 20,000 permanent jobs
    • IT, corporate healthcare, cyber security, financial
  • 2,500 spaces in the new public, structured Merriweather Post Pavilion parking garage

The Downtown Columbia Plan calls for the realization of James Rouse’s original intention that Columbia would be a “real city” and continue to serve as a model for smarter, more livable communities.