photo source: Jessica Anne, via the You know you grew up in Columbia MD page. Used with permission. Confession: I now have three hometowns. When I leave NC to visit PA, I'm going home. When I jaunt from PA down to MD, I'm going home. When I drive south and to NC, home. It's a good thing.
But the place I spent my formative years, where I grew up, where I first believed in God, where I sang in children's choir, and where I graduated high school (Go Lions!), is Columbia MD. It's a planned community located midway between Baltimore and DC, and it celebrates its 50th birthday in June 20171. What sets a planned community apart is its deliberate avoidance of urban sprawl -- there's no haphazard growth until the town runs into the next town and becomes a metropolis. Columbia has 10 villages, including Oakland Mills, Phelps Luck, Owen Brown, Harpers Choice, Dorsey Hall, each of which has a village center. A village center includes an anchor grocery store and strip mall, which includes such things as a hairdresser, a restaurant, some retail spaces, some fast food joints, maybe a bank, probably a gas station. So you're never far from where you shop and eat, and you get to know the local owners and your neighbors while you're at it. Each village also has several neighborhoods, many of which have an elementary school, and each of which has a convenience store. Also probably a pool run by the Columbia Association, which is a really enormous version of a homeowner's association.
1 How does a town celebrate its birthday? If it's Columbia, it's with enough sheet cake for everyone to get a slice, served down at one of the primary green spaces in town, Lake Kittamaqundi. Literally thousands of slices of cake. And not just on the "big numbers", like the silver and the golden anniversaries. Every. Single. Year. Back at the 20th anniversary, 1987, they took a stairstep photo with a kid who had been born in town at Howard County General Hospital for every single year of Coumbia's existence. My little brother was the 1983 kid.
Fun fact: if you still have access to a hard-copy World Book Encyclopedia, if you look up "City", there's an aerial shot of Columbia.
Now Money Magazine has chosen Columbia MD as America's #1 Best Place to Live, and in addition to that cover article, it's done up some lovely interviews with some of its citizenry.
How America's #1 Best Place to Live got that way
Thank you, James Rouse.