Vision needed to give new life to village centers [Letter]

January 24, 2014

Fifty years ago when James Rouse and others where laying the foundation for Columbia, the "new city," self-contained community shopping areas were a very good idea — no disrespect to Ellicott City and historic Main Street intended. In the mid-60's when shopping centers were being erected in suburbs around the country, the concept of a village center was innovative.

Ah, the good old days. Remember, we even had rotary phones back then? They could be found hanging on a street corner in a glass thing called a phone booth. A new car could be purchased for around $2,500, gasoline was only 34 cents per gallon, and nobody wore seatbelts. Yes, those were the days. But they are long gone now and so is the life span of the original village center concept.

I applaud Councilman Calvin Ball and County Executive Ken Ulman for being 21st century visionaries who are willing to think outside the lines. Mr. Rouse would have loved these guys for being like him: for thinking of innovative ways to sustain and build community, for being creative and willing to take reasonable, measured risk in ways that some will find objectionable — all in order to turn around a village center that has been struggling for years. It's so easy to criticize and say why something shouldn't happen, but it takes thoughtfulness, courage, and character to bring a variety of ideas and interests together for a solution that meets the common good.

As a 28-year member of Celebration Church, a founding member of the Board of Better Together Long Reach and a long time active participant in the life of this community, I strongly support this redevelopment process. Change is often difficult — don't think for a minute Jim Rouse didn't encounter challenges from the naysayers. But if he had not acted on his vision with the input of others, most of us would not have chosen to make this place our home today. It wouldn't exist!

There is so much good about Columbia and her villages; let's work together to build on it and make this a place our children and grandchildren will want to live, work and raise their families.

Larry Walker

Ellicott City

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