🇺🇸 Columbia is a place in Howard County, Maryland, United States, and is one of the principal communities of the Baltimore–Washington metropolitan area. It is a planned community consisting of 10 self-contained villages. Columbia began with the idea that a city could enhance its residents' quality of life. Creator and developer James W. Rouse saw the new community in terms of human values, rather than merely economics and engineering. Opened in 1967, Columbia was intended to not only eliminate the inconveniences of then-current subdivision design, but also eliminate racial, religious and class segregation.
Columbia proper consists only of that territory governed by the Columbia Association, but larger areas are included under its name. These include several other communities which predate Columbia, including Simpsonville, Atholton, part of Clarksville. It is the second most populous community in Maryland after Baltimore.
Economy James Rouse conceived of a city, not a suburban bedroom community, and a large area on the eastern edge was allocated for industrial purposes. The centrepiece of this aspect of the development was a General Electric appliance plant. One section of the property was subsequently redeveloped for big box retail; the remainder became the large Gateway Commerce office complex, still being expanded. Another large facility on the historic Woodlawn Plantation was used for engineering activity and the first home of the Maryland Center for Entrepreneurship. There is still a smaller industrial area to the south of this, but by and large East Columbia is dominated by commercial real estate—office, retail, and wholesale—in contrast to the original plan, which saw the Town Center area as the commercial centre of Columbia.
The U.S. federal government is the source of many jobs for Columbians. Several large U.S. Department of Defense installations and R&D facilities surround Columbia, the largest being the National Security Agency at Fort George G. Meade, and the Applied Physics Laboratory south of Columbia, both predating the establishment of Columbia. Companies which have had research facilities in the area include W.R. Grace and Company and Westvaco. Further afield, many Columbians commute to government and government contractor jobs in the Baltimore and Washington, D.C. area.
Companies based in Columbia include W.R. Grace and Company, Sourcefire, PetMeds, MICROS Systems, Martek Biosciences, Integral Systems, GP Strategies Corporation, Corporate Office Properties Trust, and the consumer research company Arbitron.
Retail The Mall in Columbia, located in Town Center, is a large regional shopping mall with four anchor department stores (Nordstrom, Macy's, and JCPenney), a multiplex movie theatre, and more than 200 stores and restaurants.
There are several other major competing shopping centres in East Columbia, including Dobbin Center strip mall, Snowden Square big box retail on the remainder of the GE industrial site, Columbia Crossing I and II big box retail, and Gateway Overlook.
Columbia's nine "village centers" provide residents with nearby shopping as well, often including supermarkets, gas stations, liquor stores, dry cleaners, restaurants, and hair salons. The village centres are laid out so that individual stores are not visible from the road, unlike traditional strip malls. The arrangement is praised for eliminating much of the garishness of roadside America.
The village centres have evolved over time. The Oakland Mills Village Center has a traditional strip mall managed by Cedar Realty Trust. The Kings Contrivance Village Center includedes a Harris Teeter supermarket, but maintains the original character of stores around a central corridor and plaza. Owen Brown village centre is now managed by GFS Realty.
Columbia has a population of over 103,500 people. Columbia also forms one of the centres of the wider Baltimore-Columbia-Towson metropolitan area which has a population of over 2,710,489 people.