James Rouse Columbia's Founder

A visionary leader and entrepreneur who was the energy and driving force behind the development of Columbia

About Columbia & Demographics

History of Columbia

Prepared by Russ Swatek from Robert Tennebaum's book,
"Creating a New City - Columbia, MD",
copyright 1996, ISBN 0-9643728-7-8.

Columbia was envisioned as a city of about 100,000 inhabitants, although it is believed that what we today call "out parcels" were included in the calculations.  The site plan dated April 1966 had five parking decks to reduce the parking sprawl around the large mall, and had "highrise buildings (about ten stories) sited as landmarks at key locations" around the retail mall.

The 3-D model constructed depicting the proposed city center has been destroyed, however pictures of it exist in the Archives and on the front of Tennebaum's book.  The tallest building pictured appeared to be twelve stories tall.

It appears that after Rouse the concept of a vibrant city center was forgotten, and our County Council/Zoning Board and the Planning Department rushed to approve development in other areas of Columbia. Not only did they allow large commercial buildings to take hold outside of city center but they also mis-directed residence allocation that should have gone to support a vibrant city center.

Jim Rouse, in September 1963, at the University of California/Berkley, said:
“We can’t plan effectively for the future growth of American communities unless we start at the beginning--- and that beginning is people."



Rouse on the
August 24, 1981
cover of TIME