About 50 residents and leaders of homeowner associations met with officials of the Rouse Co. and the Columbia Association last night to learn how they could modernize Columbia's oldest village -- the village of Wilde Lake.
"We're making Wilde Lake a great place to live for everybody," said Howard Feldmesser, chairman of the revitalization committee of the Wilde Lake Village Board.
He later warned: "I don't think we'll solve any problems tonight."
He was correct. The two-hour session on revitalization was mainly for brainstorming. Participants suggested what parts of the village's infrastructure needed to be updated and how it could be done. Among the suggestions: street sweeping, more trash receptacles in the village center, repaved sidewalks and physical improvements to the interfaith center and village center, which is losing Encore Books in September.
At the end of the meeting, residents signed up for a steering committee that will oversee the project. A follow-up board meeting is planned in September.
In October, a fair with remodeling contractors is planned and a month later a village cleanup day will be held to beautify the village.
"I need all the help I can get," Mr. Feldmesser told residents. "And you need all the help you can get."
He added: "We'll take some real action."
The revitalization plan, which was conceived in February, comes 28 years after Rouse developed Columbia, which was revolutionary at that time because of its efforts to attract a racially diverse population and its commitment to provide open space.
Today, as many homeowners are paying off their mortgages, signs of aging in Columbia are more apparent as the homes with now-obsolete earth tones and apartment complexes fall into disrepair.
To avoid a decline in property values and increased crime that blight brings, homeowners are encouraged to keep their properties in good condition. All changes must comply with the town's covenants.
"What we should try to do is make it as good as it was when it was new," said Padraic Kennedy, president of the Columbia Association (CA), which provides amenities for residents. "I think we can set a model that can be exported to Harper's Choice and exported to Oakland Mills" and other older villages in Columbia, and elsewhere in the county.
In Wilde Lake, some renovation projects have already been completed at the Slayton House community center and the Wilde Lake Village Green (village center).
The county government, Comcast Cable, Bell Atlantic and the Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. are also participating in the revitalization project. BGE has agreed to repair street lights, and Comcast will replace the older cable lines with more advanced fiber optics.
All residents, agencies and organizations must work together in a coordinated effort to avoid repeating work and undoing certain improvements, Mr. Kennedy said.