A planned community, Columbia is comprised of 10 villages, each of which are self-contained. This unique city is located in Howard County, which, at the time of the 2013 U.S. Census was the second-wealthiest in the nation. Columbia consistently ranks high in national lists of best places to live. Currently, an expansion plan is underway to add more than 5,000 new housing units.
Each village is divided into several neighborhoods, and has its own schools, shopping center, community center, recreation facility and walking paths. Each neighborhood has a mixture of single-family homes, condominiums, townhouses and apartments. The first village to be established was Wilde Lake in 1967. The newest one, River Hill, was formed in 1990. Recreation is very important to the residents of Columbia. The community operates more than 2 dozen swimming pools, plus an equestrian park, a skate park, many racquet sport courts and 3 athletic clubs. There are also 3 man-made lakes for sailing and fishing, plus 80 miles of paths for running, walking and bicycling. A triathlon is held every fall in Columbia, and is a major event that draws competitors from around the nation. Growing healthy food is a natural pastime as well, and gardeners will delight in the many public garden plots that are available to use for a low annual fee.
With its relatively close proximity to the nation’s capital, many Columbia residents are employed by the Federal Government. There are a number of large defense installations here, including the National Security Agency. Some of these were established before Columbia. There are at least 10 major companies based in Columbia, several of which are in the tech industry. Many residents are employed in the areas of retail, hospitality, education, medicine and engineering. With the completion of the proposed expansion plan, there will be more than 5 million additional square feet of office and retail space, 640 new hotel rooms and a new public transportation system.