Columbia is a census-designated place in Howard County, Maryland, United States, and is one of the principal cities of the Baltimore metropolitan area and the Washington metropolitan area. It is a planned community consisting of 10 self-contained villages. It began with the idea that a city could enhance its residents’ quality of life. Creator and developer James W. Rouse saw the new community in terms of human values, rather than merely economics and engineering. Opened in 1967, Columbia was intended to not only eliminate the inconveniences of then-current subdivision design, but also eliminate racial, religious and class segregation. Columbia has consistently ranked in the top 10 of CNN Money’s Best Places to Live in the United States.
The center of Columbia is located at 39°12.5′N 76°52′W / 39.2083°N 76.867°W / 39.2083; -76.867. Because it is unincorporated, there is confusion over the exact limits of Columbia. In the strictest definition, Columbia comprises only the land governed under covenants by the Columbia Association. This is a considerably smaller area than the census-designated place (CDP) as defined by the United States Census Bureau. The CDP has a total area of 32.2 square miles (83.4 km), of which 31.9 square miles (82.7 km) are land and 0.3 square miles (0.7 km), or 0.80%, are water. The CDP includes a number of older communities which do not lie within the CA’s purview, including the Holiday Hills, Diamondback, and Allview subdivisions and the former town of Simpsonville, as well as some land on the east side of Clarksville. These areas are not part of the “new town”, and are not directly served by its amenities. Some of these areas are included in Columbia ZIP codes by the post office, and some are not.
Columbia is located in central Maryland, 20 miles (32 km) southwest of Baltimore, 25 miles (40 km) northeast of Washington, D.C., and 30 miles (48 km) northwest of Annapolis. The city lies in the Piedmont region of Maryland, with its eastern edge at the fall line. The climate tends to hot, humid summers and cool to cold and wet winters. There are occasional large amounts of snowfall that happen every year.
The primary landforms in Columbia are rolling hills and stream valleys; Columbia’s road network is laid out to follow the terrain, with many winding streets and cul-de-sacs. Elevations range from about 200 to 500 feet (61 to 152 m) above sea level. Most of Columbia is drained by the Middle Patuxent and Little Patuxent rivers. There are three artificial lakes, created by damming of tributary streams during city construction. In 1965, the Rouse Company leased 7,000 acres (2,800 ha) of farmland staged for development, and earmarked 4,000 acres (1,600 ha) of oak forest for timber harvesting. The company developed a sapling planter to replant sections of cleared land that would use Columbia’s W.R. Grace-developed fertilizers. An outer ring of greenspace was abandoned early in the project because the combination with the already required river buffers would have reduced profitable land available for building. Along with Symphony Woods, many other stands of mature trees have been temporarily maintained in Columbia, including the large Middle Patuxent Environmental Area in the western part of the city between Harper’s Choice and River Hill villages, protecting much of the river valley from development.
NOTE: The CDP includes considerable areas which are not part of the planned community.
As of July 2017, Columbia is a majority minority community, with non-Hispanic whites constituting 49% of the population.
The 2009-2013 census estimates report the median income for a household in the CDP was $99,877. The per capita income for the CDP was $46,374. About 4.1% of families and 6.6% of the population were below the poverty line, including 8.8% of those under age 18 and 6.4% of those age 65 or over.
As of the census of 2000, there were 88,254 people, 34,199 households, and 23,118 families residing in the CDP. The population density was 3,202.0 people per square mile (1,236.4/km²). There were 35,281 housing units at an average density of 1,280.0 per square mile (494.3/km²). The racial makeup of the CDP was 66.52% White, 21.47% Black or African American, 0.26% Native American, 7.30% Asian, 0.05% Pacific Islander, 1.63% from other races, and 2.76% from two or more races. 4.12% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race. 14% of Columbia’s residents were German, 11% Irish, 10% English, 5% Italian, 4% Polish, 2% Russian, 2% Scottish, 2% Indian, 2% Chinese, 2% Korean, 2% Sub-Saharan African, 2% French, and 2% West Indian.
There were 34,199 households out of which 35.9% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 53.4% were married couples living together, 11.2% had a female householder with no husband present, and 32.4% were non-families. 25.6% of all households were made up of individuals and 5.1% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.54 and the average family size was 3.09.
In the CDP, the population was spread out with 26.3% under the age of 18, 6.7% from 18 to 24, 34.1% from 25 to 44, 25.5% from 45 to 64, and 7.5% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 36 years. For every 100 females, there were 93.1 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 88.7 males.