Reston, Virginia’s People-First Approach To Development Has Lasting Effects

March 23, 2016

Reston Virginia. It sounds like the name of a Clint Eastwood character in a 1960s Spaghetti Western, fully equipped with a piercing squint, a fast hand, and a cool-as-a-cucumber-named-Fonzie demeanor that sticks with audiences and inspires future generations of moviemakers.

Well, this Reston, Va. isn’t a Clint Eastwood character, although it is a 1960s creation with cultural significance that has inspired subsequent generations and is about to become the star of its own movie. This Reston, Va. is a suburban development about 20 miles outside of Washington, D.C. and, as CityLab reports, it has been attracting urbanists for years thanks to its developmental approach focused on people.

Reston was the brainchild of Robert E. Simon Jr., who was far ahead of his time and insisted his flagship planning project be focused on walkability, density, access to nature and green space, and diversity of races and income levels. Pretty much everything people are looking for in an urban center in today’s world.

The Virginia town is featured in a new documentary, Another Way of Living: The Story of Reston, VA, that asserts the main ideas that are currently driving urban revival projects around the country stem from the ideas tested and implemented in Reston when it was built 50 years ago. Simon’s focus for Reston was on making it a place for people to have experiences, not just simply a place to call home.

Simon developed Reston when a suburban development typically meant winding streets of single-family homes and not much else. But, drawing inspiration from European cities, Simon decided Reston should consist of a series of dense village centers, each one with its own central plaza, shops, and things to do while still preserving the beautiful countryside Reston was to be built on.

Reston is a model for how to successfully implement many ideas that are just now becoming mainstream, not just in the United States, but also around the world.

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