By Kristopher Brant
September 22, 2016

Number One in MONEY’s Best Places to Live in America 2016 is a planned community: Columbia, Md.

Here’s how it got to be that way.

Fifty years ago, James Rouse, a city architect, started to think about the suburbs. Rouse wanted to give people a taste of city life, but combine it with the beauty of wide-open spaces of towns and the country. The result was Columbia.

A small city nestled between Baltimore and Washington, D.C., Columbia has a lot of green space for parks and bike paths; lakes for fishing and wading, and city centers where Columbia residents can shop and dine without traveling too far from home.

Rouse wanted residents to be united and to know one another. Mailboxes are grouped together so that you can talk to your neighbors. Rouse wanted the community to make money, so he created centers where stores, restaurants and other amenities could live. There’s a homeowner’s association that makes sure the community continues to thrive.

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