One of America’s best-known planned communities – Columbia, Maryland – is locked in debate over whether to develop its Mall into a new urban neighborhood, a trend by builders who seek to attract residents, retailers and businesses with more compact development and less car usage around suburban malls, not city centers.
At the center of the fight is an age-old land use battle over the character of the community, pitting new investment to breathe fresh vitality into the community against limiting growth to preserve a less busy environment.
The Baltimore Sun reports that General Growth Properties, which became Columbia’s master developer when it purchased the Rouse Co. in 2004, has proposed building up to 5,500 residential units, 1.25 million square feet of retail space and 4.3 million square feet of office space, plus a couple of hotels, other cultural centers and transportation upgrades around the mall. Saddled with $27 billion in debt, the company filed for bankruptcy in April 2009, but is close to a reorganization plan, and officials say the Columbia plans are on track.
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