In October 1963, The Rouse Company announced that it had acquired some 14,000 acres for the purpose of building a new city. In nine months the company had purchased 140 separate properties, about one-tenth of the County's total land area.
In disclosing the Company's plans to a rural Howard County, James W. Rouse, Chairman of the Board of Directors of The Rouse Company, described his vision of the new city. Columbia, because it would be planned from the beginning, would avoid urban sprawl, the waste and inconveniences that have come to typify spot development. The new city would be self-sufficient -- it would provide jobs, recreation, shopping and health care, and many other facilities and services people want and need in a city. More importantly, it was to provide a broad range of housing choices. Residential development would be balanced by commercial and industrial development so that Columbia would not only "pay its way" for County services, but would contribute excess tax revenues to benefit the entire County.
To finance the land acquisition, in February 1963 Connecticut General Life Insurance Company agreed to invest in the project and, in return, acquired an equity participation. This arrangement was subsequently formalized by the creation of the Howard Research and Development Corporation, the joint venture established to develop Columbia. In December 1964, additional private financing was provided by Chase Manhattan Bank and Teachers Insurance and Annuity of America. In 1970, two additional lenders, Morgan Guaranty and Manufacturers Hanover Trust Companies, joined the other investors in Columbia.
The General Plan Takes Shape
From October 1963 to November 1964, Company planners created a general plan for the city, detailing land uses, densities, development pace and economics. To help determine what the city's social objectives should be and how they might be reflected in the physical plan, the Company convened a group of fourteen nationally-known experts in such fields as education, health care, recreation, economics, sociology, psychology and communications. During the next six months, the group met to determine not just what was possible, but how a city might work best. Ideas from these meetings found expression both in the physical plan for the city (in the location of schools at the core of each neighborhood, for example) and in innovative programs such as the shared facilities Interfaith Center and the group practice Columbia Medical Plan.
A New City Is Born
The Company went immediately to work on detailed plans for the city's first village, the Village of Wilde Lake, named for Frazer B. Wilde, past chairman of the board of Connecticut General. Ten months later, in June 1966, construction was started. Columbia opened to the public one year later, drawing international publicity and more than 100,000 visitors to its Exhibit Center during the first summer. In July 1967, Columbia's first residents moved into the Village of Wilde Lake. Columbia's first industrial firm, Hittman Associates, Inc., a research and engineering company, announced its intention to locate here is May 1967. The company moved into its new quarters in December 1967.
Columbia began with the simplest yet boldest of ideas: that a city could enhance its residents' quality of life. Today, Columbia is a city of more than 100,000 residents, living in nine different villages and Town Center. Columbia is home to more than 5,500 businesses providing 63,200 jobs. Residents enjoy a community filled with social and cultural outlets, quality education and abundant recreational opportunities. In all, Columbia has been a model for other planned communities, taking better ideas, making them reality, and creating a positive environment in which to live, work and raise a family.