Anais Seldon, 6, of Columbia, Eirian Nibbana, 7, of Columbia, and Sadie Martin, 7, of Ellicott City, from left, take a spin on new playground equipment at a Columbia Association tot lot near Jeffers Hill Elementary School.

Anais Seldon, 6, of Columbia, Eirian Nibbana, 7, of Columbia, and Sadie Martin, 7, of Ellicott City, from left, take a spin on new playground equipment at a Columbia Association tot lot near Jeffers Hill Elementary School. (photo by Nate Pesce)

Howard County boasts a distinct and thriving collection of communities, old and new, stable and growing.

In Columbia, one-third of the land is designated as open space. Woods, parkland, playgrounds and other public spaces are required by covenant to remain undeveloped.

Elsewhere in the county, a farmland preservation program designates certain areas for housing and permanently protects others from development. Newcomers to the county should explore the status of the property in which they are interested. Prospective Columbians should also investigate the Columbia Association property assessment; this extra “tax” supports Columbia’s recreation and community facilities.

Here is a look at some of the communities Howard countians call home:


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ELKRIDGE

Once a bustling port on the Patapsco River, the Elkridge of today is a growing community laced with antiquity. Historic Main Street, lined with rowhouses and small businesses, exists beside busy commuter routes such as Route 1, the nation’s first highway, and Route 100, which links the area to Glen Burnie and points beyond. Elkridge, with more than 39,000 residents, is the fastest-growing area in Howard County, offering an abundance of housing styles, both affordable and upscale.

ELLICOTT CITY

Today’s seat of county government was founded in 1772 by the Ellicotts, three Quaker brothers from Pennsylvania, as a milling center. Today, it retains the same small-town charm despite intense growth.

Historic Main Street offers antiques shops, restaurants and a riverside B&O railroad station and museum.

Beyond Ellicott City’s historic heart, residential neighborhoods offering a variety of housing flow from the Patapsco River to the center of the county. Baltimore National Pike is a bustling business district, while open space is filled with golf courses, parkland and such upscale neighborhoods as Farside, The Chase and The Preserve, where home prices frequently surpass the $1 million mark.

COLUMBIA

Begun in 1967 on 21 square miles of farmland, the planned community of Columbia has grown to a town of about 98,000 people in 10 villages. Developer James Rouse’s vision for this “new town” included racial diversity, religious sharing and environmentally conscious development — a place where people can grow.

Rouse’s plan of building each neighborhood around a village center gives Columbia a small-town feel. But the city also has amenities other small towns can’t match, such as downtown offices, a major shopping mall, extensive recreation facilities and a large concert pavilion.

Columbia’s downtown is set to be redeveloped over the next 30 years by Howard Hughes Corp., bringing thousands of new residences and businesses to Town Center.

CLARKSVILLE AND HIGHLAND

Large, luxurious houses sit alongside farmers’  fields in this section of the county. Growing Clarksville is the site of River Hill, Columbia’s 10th and final village, plus a smattering of restaurants, shops and businesses. Meanwhile, at Highland’s more rural intersection, you’ll find a community market, state-of-the-art post office and a variety of small businesses in both new and well-established retail space.

SAVAGE

Once a community focused on a textile mill, the Savage we see today and the renovated Savage Mill Shopping Center are an antiques lover’s and artisan’s dream. Still a “small town,” Savage is a tight-knit community with churches, a park, a community hall and the annual Savage Fest bringing residents together.

WESTERN HOWARD COUNTY

The towns of Glenelg, Glenwood, Cooksville, Lisbon and West Friendship were once farming areas where communities were centered around churches, schools and general stores.