Rouse's first endeavor into urban planning, Baltimore City's mixed-use Village of Cross Keys, was completed in September 1965. 3 years before, the company had started a series of clandestine property purchases in Howard County, 13 miles southwest of downtown Baltimore.

News of an entirely new city was announced in October 1963. The self-contained suburb, to be known as Columbia, was to occupy 14,000 acres. It would feature housing, employment, shopping, schools, health care and interfaith churches. Careful planning, it was said, would consolidate and regulate its development and eliminate racial, economic and religious segregation.

The first of Columbia's ten Utopian-type villages, Wilde Lake, was dedicated June 21, 1967. The centerpiece and commercial core of the planned city, MALL IN COLUMBIA, opened for business August 2, 1971.