Suzanne Waller, the association board member who represents the Town Center, said that although the board hasn't seen the logo yet, it's time for something new. "We're in the second phase of building a better city," she said.

Russell said she's sorry that the People Tree will no longer be the promotional symbol of the association.

She recalled the day she and her husband stopped off Route 29 while traveling home to Baltimore from Rockville, where they were visiting friends. They had recently moved to the area and were looking for a bigger home as they prepared to have their first child, but the search was difficult for the interracial couple when many developments discriminated against them.

The same day they gave in to the promotional signs that advertised new apartments, she said she they were welcomed into the community.

"We hesitantly got out of the car and they asked us if we wanted to rent one," she said, adding that they moved in shortly thereafter. "It was a very lovely country setting. That's all there was. … That is how we accidentally moved to Columbia."

They stayed for so many years, she said, because "it was, from the beginning, an open community. That's why the People Tree has had such a profound meaning for many of the people who live in Columbia."

She also recalled that, years later, the mall replaced the annual holiday poinsettia tree, allowing a car dealership to park vehicles in the space where it had been. She said residents protested around the mall and demanded that the tree be brought back. It was.

"If people felt that strongly about a poinsettia tree, you can imagine how upset people will be [about the People Tree]," she said.

jkanderson@baltsun.com

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