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Tuesday, April 29, 2014

A different way to celebrate Jim Rouse's 100th birthday

      Many events are planned in connection with the celebration of Jim Rouse's 100th birthday this year.  Most of these events look back at the beginning of Columbia and Jim Rouse as a person.  While this is always an interesting endeavor I think it would be better to have a community wide event to look at how Columbia would be planned differently with today's realities.  What type of community would we be planning now that would define Columbia for the next 30, 40 or 50 years?  When you read the early planning documents of the groups that Rouse brought together to plan our new community you realize how different the world is today that in the early 1960's.  Rouse was interested in getting direct feedback from community members but the technology of the time had him thinking of having a Columbia public access cable show with polling on issues by community members calling in on the telephone.  One number would be for "yes" to a question and another number for a "no" answer.  The internet as we know it today was nonexistent.  No one could even image a community of bloggers.  Diversity today is more likely to be foreign born driven than racially as it was in the 1960's.  Who knew that the development of Columbia would attract a population that makes us one of the wealthiest communities in the United States.
     While the originator of this new planning process is unclear (GGP and Howard Hughes are no Rouse Company) it does seem to make sense to have the process one that would heavily rely on social media to gain the wide community participation.  Maybe a Facebook page called "Columbia 2050" or something along this line.  Maybe Meetups to examine the different aspects of our community. It would be interesting to have the planning of Columbia done using a crowdsourcing approach.
     Will any of this happen?  Probably not.  It is rare to have someone like Rouse who has the vision and the resources to make that vision a reality.  My own feeling is that the future of Columbia will look more like other suburban communities and less like a planned, unique community with a vision.  Maybe being unique is difficult to sustain when a community grows beyond a certain point.  And maybe we have long since reached that point.  Is that the reality we are seeing with the challenges faced by our village centers and interfaith centers?

    The PBS News Hour had a segment last night that looked at a different way to measure a community's prosperity.    

P.S. 1
  I loved this photo that Ellen Flynn Giles posted on Facebook of a student who had participated in the Battle of the Books.


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