Poll: Is Columbia'sTown Center Boring?

Redevelopment plans have been approved to make Columbia's town center more urban, but right now, do you think town center is boring?


It would appear Columbia's Town Center, which is about to undergo a major rebirth, has been getting some flack.

“I prefer the word tired to describe Columbia’s aging downtown,” wrote blogger Dennis Lane in a recent post at Tales of Two Cities.

The corporate chains populating the mall and the town center area are common throughout suburban America and the huge parking lots surrounding the shopping centers are rarely filled.

Lane, however, says the town center represents the future of Columbia as planned redevelopment begins in the city. Like cities all across America, Columbia is trying to reinvent itself into a walkable and bike-able city.

Jessie Newburn, director of communications and community engagement at the Columbia Association, told the Huffington Post last month in an article about expanding her social network that she loves the community, “But it’s also really, really, really boring. We don’t have any dance clubs. We don’t have a lot of music venues.”

Christopher Leinberger, a professor of urban design at the University of Michigan, wrote about how more expensive housing is moving towards pedestrian-friendly areas in inner suburbs and cities, in a November op-ed published in the New York Times.

“In the late 1990s, high-end outer suburbs contained most of the expensive housing in the United States," he wrote. “Simply put, there has been a profound structural shift—a reversal of what took place in the 1950s, when drivable suburbs boomed and flourished as center cities emptied and withered.”

But as the city waits for the redevelopment process to get underway, do you think the current town center is boring?

jj March 06, 2012 at 06:56 PM
Urban areas come with serious urban problems. Just don't add hundreds of rental apartments or else the town center will go into decline. We need to have people that are invested in the community.
MG42 March 06, 2012 at 07:01 PM
Only boring people are bored.
Brook Hubbard March 06, 2012 at 07:47 PM
No, it's fine the way it is. There's no need to do anything, except maybe take a step ~back~ rather than forward towards "urbanization". You want to make the town center encouraging? How about bringing back that old main street feel, with mom and pop shops, open parks, etc. This article concerns me, with comments like "We don’t have any dance clubs. We don’t have a lot of music venues." Why do we need those things? Do you really want an increase in drunk drivers and alcohol-driven conflicts? You want that stuff, you drive into Baltimore or DC. The only people I can think of who want these sorts of things are late-teens or early 20-somethings, often in college or just out of it. How many college students or new-to-the-workforce individuals make enough to afford a house and HOAs around here? Columbia is supposed to be a quiet family-oriented town, not a college town or a "hopping place on a Saturday night". If raising my kids in peace and enjoying a quiet night at the mall or theater is "boring", then call me Mr. Mundane.
Danna Walker (Editor) March 06, 2012 at 09:15 PM
I love this discussion. I notice there is a lot of talk in Maryland towns and cities about walkability and bikeability. I think we're a pretty fit state overall but I wonder if it's an 'ideal' versus what people really want -- someplace to park!
Peter Monaghan March 07, 2012 at 01:43 PM
That was deep, Ohai. The mall isn't a person. But keep up the good work! To me, the Town Center isn't "boring". I find it to be inaccessible, and not worth the effort required. The developers crammed the "fun" part of the mall (AMC, Cheesecake, PF Changs, etc) in one corner, so the parking situation can be bedlam. As for the lakefront, it be quicker/easier for me to drag my canoe from Rte 29 and paddle across the lake to get there. Instead, my wife and I go to one of the non-chain restaurants along Snowden and then go to the UA for a movie.
Julia McCready March 07, 2012 at 02:15 PM
vibrant: adjective 1.moving to and fro rapidly; vibrating. 2.vibrating so as to produce sound, as a string. 3.(of sounds) characterized by perceptible vibration; resonant; resounding. 4.pulsating with vigor and energy: the vibrant life of a large city. 5.vigorous; energetic; vital: a vibrant personality. Some people want it; some people don't. But who is going to keep this place alive? We need a mix of ages, not just one kind.
b.santos March 07, 2012 at 02:17 PM
Yes, downtown Columbia has long stretches of boredom. Whether I am with my friends or my family, rarely is the occasion that I hear someone say, “Let’s go to downtown Columbia and see what’s going on.” For most that have lived here for some time, the question is rhetorical. On the other hand, there are many times that certain events draw people into downtown. For instance, at least a few times a year I will get a phone call from a friend saying “Hey, such-and-such movie is playing at dusk, let’s go!” With respect to indoor cinema, downtown Columbia is the only place in Howard County that allows for my wife and I to do a dinner and movie night without having to get in the car between activities. The established kids nights downtown do draw my family at least once a month. The problem with most of these activities is that most are one-offs. After the movie is over, pack up the blanket and go home. Reducing the perception of boredom must include integrating secondary activities to induce people to linger and interact. Lastly is the problem of infrastructure. If you look at downtown Columbia, most of the land has been allocated for the driving and parking of cars. Parking lots are boring. People are secondary in parking lots. That land needs to be taken back and repurposed to allow people to interact, for performances to occur, for boredom to be abolished.
MG42 March 07, 2012 at 05:33 PM
Boring people experience feelings of boredom. As long as we're trying to be cute, Pete, Town Center isn't the mall. But Keep up the good work!
Alice K E Marks March 07, 2012 at 10:35 PM
I find it disappointing that the mere mention of rental apartments and anything urban strikes fear into the hearts of columbians. It seems that we are all too ready to dismiss "other people" - non-homeowners, non-middle and -upper class - and make that narrowness an easy excuse for the lack of vitality in Columbia. I find it sad that the often hyperbolic golems of our neighboring cities - Baltimore and DC - make people believe that things urban are the same as things criminal. What a sad world to live in!  I, for one, would welcome an indie movie theatre (like The Charles), a radical coffee shop (like Red Emma's), or an uninterrupted stroll (like in Bolton Hill). Why must we limit ourselves to a fundamental misunderstanding of what makes a city? Why must we reject what Rouse wanted, which was the welcome of diversity and the celebration of culture?  Yes, I'm in my mid twenties. I live here too!
Peter Tocco March 08, 2012 at 01:01 AM
Anyone concerned about Columbia's downtown might want to attend the HoCo budget hearing on Mar 14, 7 pm. One topic on the agenda is whether HoCo should budget money for an engineering study for Bridge Columbia, which would connect Oakland Mills and East Columbia with the west. Learn more at www.bridgecolumbia.org. See you there!
JH March 08, 2012 at 01:52 PM
No need to increase density to please developers and elected leaders that need campaign contributions. I agree that there are already plenty of rental units in Howard County. Add positive healthy activities and environment - friendly spaces. Make Columbia a safe and clean place for families.
Melissa August 17, 2012 at 01:58 AM
I'm with you! Columbia has an aging population, and that will continue unless there are more attractions for those of us in our twenties. I read the Columbia Flier and there are 100+ activities for seniors, but just a couple dozen for anyone who's over 18 and under 65. Columbia is nice, but it lacks the life, the pulse that brings young people in.


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