The one-hour Maryland Public Television (MPT) documentary. “Columbia’s Promise,” which tells the story of Columbia, Maryland from urban planner and real estate developer James Rouse’s original vision to the present day, premieres on MPT-HD on Sunday, April 28, at 7 p.m. The film will be shown again on MPT2/Create on Monday, April 29, at 10 p.m.
Columbia celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2017 and is considered one of the most successful planned cities in the world. If Columbia was considered an official city, it would be the second largest in Maryland.
The new MPT film uses archival video footage rarely seen in recent decades to help bring to life the early days of Columbia’s development. Portions of a 1966 public TV documentary – produced by the New York City station that became WNET – shows the Rouse team designing Columbia as an open and inclusive city during a time when segregation was still prominent.
Columbia’s Promise also features segments from a video interview Rouse conducted in 1987, during which he commented on his career, his vision for Columbia, and how the city came about.
“Mr. Rouse was famously modest and resisted most formal photo sessions and television interview requests,” explained Ken Day, MPT executive producer responsible for the documentary. “A local producer and cameraman named R. Scott Kramer had begged Mr. Rouse for years to sit down and talk about Columbia. He finally succeeded, and we are thrilled to have this interview material as part of our film.”
Among other individuals interviewed in the film are: 82-year-old Bob Tennenbaum, the last surviving member of Jim Rouse’s Columbia architectural planning team; Len Lazarick of The Business Monthly; Joshua Olsen, Rouse biographer; and several of the city’s first residents.