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Location: Columbia, MD United States. Suburban Planned Community

A 30-year master plan for redeveloping the existing Town Center, converting the existing auto-oriented area into a walkable, mixed-use new “downtown.”

Despite a 1960’s master plan calling for a socially and culturally diverse “new town” with a vibrant town center, Columbia’s downtown never lived up to its founding vision. This new plan, developed in an 8-day charrette supported by over 1000 participants, defines the 30-year vision for redeveloping the original downtown from a typical suburban layout – complete with regional mall and freestanding restaurants – into a dense, diverse, and walkable town center defined by form-based codes. As envisioned, the new downtown will include 5500 new residential units, 5.2 million square feet of new office space, 750,000 square feet of new retail and restaurants, two hotels, and several new civic and cultural buildings. The plan proposes replacing the mall and its parking lots with mixed-use development on smaller, connected blocks and converting a 6-lane thoroughfare lined with berms to a four-lane road with street parking. An existing 35-acre wooded area will be transformed into the community’s “Central Park.” Transportation plans include a shuttle and a future transit station. A community created as a model suburban alternative to city living will become more urban at its heart.

Read more at this project's website.

Transect Zone(s): T5 center.
Status: Plan Approved
Project or Plan's Scale: Town
Features: Affordable/subsidized housing, Green buildings, Mixed uses, Sustainable infrastructure, Transit oriented development.
Land area (in acres): 500
Office area (in sq. ft.): 5
Number of residential units (include live/work): 5
Civic uses (type and size): Libary, 40,000 SF; Police/Fire, TBD; Arts/Museum, 30,000 SF; Government Office, 30,000 SF; Market/Pavilion, 15, 000 SF
Project team designers: Design Collective, Inc.
Project team developers: Howard County, Maryland (Client)

Previous site status: Greyfield (former commercial)


Rewriting history

For those unfamiliar with its history, Columbia was among the most ambitious of the "new towns" begun from scratch in the 1960s that were to solve all of America's urban ills through properly managed growth. Standing at this new town's heart was a big mall. The mall's developer and the Columbia community both deserve commendation for realizing what was missing.