Wednesday, May 28, 2008

OT: Urban Development

What could increased connectivity between Town Center and the Village of Oakland Mills mean? A new blog, "53 beers on tap," presents a neutral perspective of a meeting in which this topic was touched.

Columbia, Maryland, is a planned city sitting between Baltimore and Washington, D.C. The city is, for the most part, a collection of villages, each with its own character as well as a physical village center, generally with a meeting hall, a grocery store, pizza and Chinese joints, a laundromat, a barber, and so forth. The area is highly desirable and growing. At just over 40 years old, though, the limits of the original plan are being tested.

As Columbia developers consider further Town Center development, including the areas of Merriweather Post Pavilion and Lake Kittamaqundi, it is easy to imagine these same developers eyeing the territory just beyond the lake and the pavilion....

It may be argued that Maryland's Route 29 (Columbia Pike) is the very thin barrier that allows the Village of Oakland Mills to maintain a separate identity. Consider this Google map of the area. The Other Barn, the meeting place and headquarters for the Village of Oakland Mills, is a bit over one mile due east of the southeast corner of the mall complex. For scale, consider the area covered by the mall complex itself bounded by Little Patuxent Parkway and Gov. Warfield Parkway; one could easily imagine lifting that space and dropping it into the area roughly bounded by Stevens Forest Road, Kilimanjaro Road, and Whiteacre Road. This area of Town Center would cover the Oakland Mills Village Center, the ice rink, the middle school, the high school, the athletic fields, and more.

Oakland Mills as a village is almost as old as Columbia itself with houses approaching 40-years-old. Many first generation settlers are moving along. Prices for land have skyrocketed, leaving all but apartment living out of reach for many recent arrivals in the government and service sectors. There appears to be some self-segregation into ethnic / racial pockets. Crime, including two very recent shooting deaths, are always in the news. The Food Lion, a relatively new arrival to the village center after doing without a grocery store for so many years, employs a armed guard; this complements the police substation housed in a trailer at the end of the parking lot.

As Columbia is a growing city, the trends toward increased density and urbanization may be inevitable. At some point, the economics of this trend will likely dictate a repurposing of the Village of Oakland Mills. Change is inevitable, yes; but, the outstanding question will be to what degree the Village of Oakland Mills has a say in riding through this change.

Will "increased connection" with Town Center have benefit for Oakland Mills, or will it simply lay the foundation for the absorption of Oakland Mills by Town Center?

Oakland Mills is currently actively planning the revitalization of its own identity. I hope they are considering such matters...

1 comment:

Anonymous said...


Thanks for your comment on 53 beers. I just now read your post.

I share your concern about a road leading to the absorption of Oakland Mills into a mini "city center" with Town Center. Which is why I feel that any such connection out to make it as hard as possible for drivers to use it as a thruway. Broken Land and MD175 already exist as through connections between east and west Columbia-- and they border Oakland Mills. I don't think we need a third.