Last Saturday, I had the privilege of attending Reston's ninth annual Founder's Day celebration. I'm really pleased with the celebration, and how it has grown over the years. It's important that we have a celebration of Reston's history and our founding principles.
RCA had this idea in mind when we founded the Reston Rededication Festival in the late 1960s. That event later grew into the Reston Festival (and that will be the subject of a future RCA History post), but the Founder's Day celebration is closer to the spirit of our orginal Rededication Festival.
This year, the Founder's Day celebration included several musical acts, speeches from Reston's elected officials, a yummy cake, a birthday card for Bob (which I signed), and a scavenger hunt. It was a great opportunity to remember Reston's history.
The best part of the celebration, however, is the fact that our founder is still here to celebrate with us. Bob Simon just turned 98 last week, and he was right there in the front row, accepting everyone's thanks and well-wishes. As a lifelong Restonian, I am delighted to know the man whose vision created this community where we live, work, and play.
Those of you who are new to Reston may not fully realize what a bold and audacious dream Bob brought to life. He looked at a swath of Virginia farmland, well beyond the existing DC suburbs, and saw a New Town. He looked at a state that was still suffering the effects of Jim Crow-era segregation, and saw a community that would be open to people of all races, ethnicities, and income levels. He looked at a suburban design paradigm of bedroom communities and identical houses on identical lots, and saw a place that was mixed-use before mixed-use was cool.
And Bob made his vision a reality, even though he had no background in architecture or planning. Bob looked around the world for examples of design that he liked and didn't like, then he worked with his team of consultants to design his New Town from scratch. And his vision has now stood the test of time for almost 50 years.
Bob's vision has extended far beyond Reston. Our community has served as a model the world over. Reston showed how a community could locate residential, office, and retail side by side, breaking away from the old "bedroom community" suburban model.
Reston showed how smaller individual house lots could create shorter drives and more common amenities for everyone. Reston showed how you can preserve green space and natural beauty in a thriving community that offers many terrific employment, shopping, and dining opportunities. And Reston showed that integrated neighborhoods and integrated communities are not just a pipe dream. There's a reason that so many longtime Restonians are still proud to call this place home.
It's most fitting that the Founder's Day celebration occurs at Lake Anne Village Center, since that was the first and truest expression of Bob's vision. And it remains a unique and special place that has the power to surprise and delight visitors to this day.
A couple of weeks ago, I had dinner with a friend of mine who is contemplating a move to Reston. We ate over at Jackson's in the Reston Town Center, and after dinner, we got to talking about the planning and design of Reston. In order to show him what Reston was all about, I drove him over to Lake Anne.
We parked in the lot and walked toward the plaza. At first, he was clearly confused. Looking at the a couple of unpromising brick storefronts, I could see him thinking, "Is this it?" But we walked past the RCC Lake Anne, past the concrete sculpture, past the church, and the vista of Lake Anne Plaza slowly unfolded before him, just the way Bob planned it.
The fountain was burbling, and the lights cast a warm glow over everything. A gentle breeze blew over us, and moonlight sparkled on the rippling lake. A peaceful calm, utterly unlike the buzz and commotion at the Town Center, settled around us. And my friend said, "This is really cool. I completely understand why you love it here." Nearly 50 years on, and Lake Anne still retains its power to charm.
If you're new to Reston and want to see what our community is all about, I encourage you to take a stroll around Lake Anne. You'll see the roots of Reston, just as Bob envisioned it. You may even see Bob himself, since he lives over there and likes to walk around. If you see Bob, I hope you'll shake his hand and say thanks.
It was Bob's vision that drew us here, and inspired us to make his New Town home. Personally, I am delighted to live in Bob's New Town, and I am honored to be his alternate on the Reston Master Plan Task Force. Thanks, Bob, and happy belated birthday. I look forward to seeing you at Founder's Day next year.