Dream City: Was Columbia the ‘Next America’?
Did Columbia’s early planners sell a vision they couldn’t create?
One particularly interesting aspect of the 1967 public relations campaign that advocates waged for Columbia, which was founded that year, was that it was to be “The Next America.”
According to the ad copy, planners weren’t necessarily trying to sell Columbia as some sort of utopia, but rather, a city that “works.”
It’s “a city designed to work for people,” the ad copy reads, “a city where everyday things are not done in an everyday way.”
In another 1967 ad, Columbia advocates say the city is a place where you can “work as a butcher, baker, candlestick maker, lawyer or industrial chef, and where a speedy little mini-bus whisks you from almost anywhere to any place else in the city, for only a dime.”
And the kicker:
In Columbia, you “can get a pastrami on pumpernickel at two in the morning from the delicatessen.”
These days, planning expert Chris Leinberger warns that if Columbia doesn’t become more walkable, it risks declining and becoming irrelevant.
“Columbia is the pinnacle of the drivable suburban option,” Leinberger said in a recent talk on Columbia, where he also said Jim Rouse, Columbia’s founder, would approve of a more walkable Columbia.
“Jim [Rouse] was always so far in front of the rest of the world. He invented regional malls, led the new town movement, championed master-plan communities, and started urban festival markets,” said Leinberger. “Walkable urbanism is the next step in Jim Rouse's vision of what would be.”
Weigh in: Do you think the early ad campaign for Columbia sold unrealistic visions of the city? What does Columbia need to do today to encourage more pedestrians, more usage of public transit, less road traffic and other elements that make a great city?
About this series: Associate Local Editor Lisa Rossi, with the help of Columbia Archives Manager Barbara Kellner, is writing a series of short posts about how early ideas about Columbia’s past can spur conversations today about its future. Do you have a historical aspect of Columbia you think should be explored? Email Lisa at firstname.lastname@example.org
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