Reston is an internationally known planned community whose goal was to revolutionize post-World War II concepts of land use and residential/corporate development in American suburbia. Reston is an unincorporated census-designated place located in western Fairfax County, Virginia in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area.
According to current estimates, Reston has a population of 60,353, making it the most populous place in Fairfax County. The Reston Town Center is the de facto central business district, with high-rise and low-rise commercial buildings that are home to shops, restaurants, offices, a cinema, and a hotel. It comprises over 1,000,000 square feet (93,000 m2) of office space.
Municipal, government-like services are provided by the nonprofit Reston Association, which is supported by a per-household fee for all residential properties in Reston.
As of the census of 2000, there were 56,407 people, 23,320 households, and 14,481 families residing in the community. The population density was 3,288.6 people per square mile (1,269.9/km²). There were 24,210 housing units at an average density of 1,411.5/sq mi (545.0/km²). The racial makeup of the community was 73.62% White, 9.12% African American, 0.25% Native American, 9.62% Asian, 0.04% Pacific Islander, 4.12% from other races, and 3.23% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 10.10% of the population.
Reston was Virginia’s best educated city, proportionately, with 66.7% of adult residents (25 and older) holding an associate degree or higher, and 62.8% of adults possessing a baccalaureate degree or higher.
There were 23,320 households out of which 29.6% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 50.2% were married couples living together, 8.9% had a female householder with no husband present, and 37.9% were non-families. 29.3% of all households were made up of individuals and 5.2% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.40 and the average family size was 2.99.
The population is spread out with 22.5% under the age of 18, 6.9% from 18 to 24, 36.3% from 25 to 44, 27.0% from 45 to 64, and 7.3% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 36 years. For every 100 females there were 95.6 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 93.1 males.
The median income for a household in the community was $80,018, and the median income for a family was $94,061 (as of a 2007 estimate, these figures had risen to $93,417 and $130,221, respectively). Males had a median income of $70,192 versus $45,885 for females. The per capita income for the community was $42,747. About 3.2% of families and 4.5% of the population were below the poverty line, including 6.1% of those under age 18 and 7.0% of those age 65 or over. A portion of the housing is set aside for Section 8 low-income housing. Subsidized senior citizen housing is also available.
The home ownership rate (owner-occupied housing units to total units) was 66.7%.
Part of the New Town movement, from the beginning Reston was designed to follow “guiding principles” in its development that would stress quality of life. Citizens would be able to live in the same community while going through different life cycles with different housing needs as they age. It was hoped that Restonians could live, work, and have recreation in their own community, with common grounds and scenic beauty shared equally regardless of income level.
Reston was planned with the following principles, as stated by Robert E. Simon in 1962:
In the creation of Reston, Virginia, these are the major goals: 1. That the widest choice of opportunities be made available for the full use of leisure time. This means that the New Town should provide a wide range of cultural and recreational facilities as well as an environment for privacy. 2. That it be possible for anyone to remain in a single neighborhood throughout his life, uprooting being neither inevitable nor always desirable. By providing the fullest range of housing styles and prices — from high-rise efficiencies to 6-bedroom townhouses and detached houses — housing needs can be met at a variety of income levels and at different stages of family life. This kind of mixture permits residents to remain rooted in the community if they so choose — as their particular housing needs change. As a by-product, this also results in the heterogeneity that spells a lively and varied community. 3. That the importance and dignity of each individual be the focal point for all planning, and take precedence for large-scale concepts. 4. That the people be able to live and work in the same community. 5. That commercial, cultural and recreational facilities be made available to the residents from the outset of the development — not years later. 6. That beauty — structural and natural — is a necessity of the good life and should be fostered. 7. Since Reston is being developed from private enterprise, in order to be completed as conceived it must also, of course, be a financial success.
Greenbelt, Maryland, a 1930s community built as part of a federal New Deal housing experiment, is another example of a New Town. Subsequent New Town movement communities include Roosevelt Island in New York City and Columbia, Maryland.
Reston was the first post-war community in the U.S. to use clustered townhouse development, a strategy that allows for the preservation of open space along with higher density. Reston was also the first 20th-century private community in the U.S. to incorporate natural preservation in its planning (Greenbelt was a publicly-supported community).
Town and village centers
An important part of Reston’s development is its five village centers and one town center. Each village center, all of which (save North Point) predate the Reston Town Center, was designed to be a half-mile walk from most homes and incorporate the daily retail and community service needs of residents. Denser developments, such as apartments and clustered town homes are clustered around each village center. The first village center built was the critically-acclaimed Lake Anne (see below), followed by (in chronological order) Hunters Woods, Tall Oaks, South Lakes, and North Point.
Hunters Woods underwent a controversial complete redevelopment in the late 1990s that rejected its original pedestrian plaza and equestrian theme for a conventional suburban shopping center design. The other village centers retain their original character.
Reston was planned before the term “new urbanism” entered into mainstream use, but it follows new urbanism guidelines in a number of ways. Reston was built with an extensive path system, and recently Fairfax County has constructed many sidewalks. It is possible to bike to downtown Reston in 15 minutes from most locations. The downtown and original areas also incorporate mixed-use development. Further mixed-use development is planned for areas where future Metro stations will be located.
However, Reston differs from New Urbanism principles in several important ways. Almost all buildings are oriented away from main streets, and few major arteries have complete sidewalk networks, although pedestrian and bike travel is easily accomplished on the isolated nature paths referred to above. This is a result of Fairfax County controlling Reston’s transportation planning–until recently, the Fairfax County zoning code only required sidewalks to be built by developers in certain cases. The inward orientation of buildings was a preference of the early developers of Reston, who wished to avoid the commercial strip look that dominates many suburban developments in favor of a more naturalistic look.
In addition, the Dulles Toll Road Corridor of office parks cuts a half-mile wide swath across the community, with only five north-south connections, making cross-town travel by car and foot difficult. The creation of a sixth connection at Glade Drive has been talked about in the past by planners and the creation of mixed-use developments around planned Metro Stations may help better-knit the community together.
Cultural and other activities
A special tax district within Fairfax County was created to fund the various educational, cultural, and recreational activities of the Reston Community Center. Its main building is located on the southern side of Reston at Hunters Woods Plaza. The center has a theater, indoor heated swimming pool with jacuzzi, ballroom, meeting rooms, and classroom space. A smaller branch of the Reston Community Center is located at Lake Anne Plaza.
Theater and music
The award-winning Reston Community Players present four stage productions annually in the high-tech theater at the Reston Community Center in the Hunters Woods Plaza. The Reston Chorale and Reston Community Orchestra also have regular performances here and throughout the town.
In the summer free concerts are offered at Lake Anne Plaza on Thursday evenings and at the Reston Town Center on Saturday evenings. Various festivals take place at these locations also. Canoes, rowboats, kayaks, and paddle boats can be rented on Lake Anne during the summer. Residents can also enjoy low cost theatrical and choir performances presented by the local high school. The theatre department at South Lakes High School has received numerous awards over the years, including the honor of representing the Mid-Atlantic region in the 2000 Edinburgh Fringe Festival in Edinburgh, Scotland.
Four miles (6 km) from Reston there are year-round concerts at Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts, where the National Symphony Orchestra has its summer home away from the Kennedy Center. This venue offers world class performances ranging from opera and ballet to symphonic and popular music. Visitors can purchase reserved seats inside the pavilion or picnic on sloping lawns while enjoying a concert. During the cooler months bluegrass music can be heard indoors at The Barns of Wolf Trap.
Reston also houses the offices and headquarters for MENC: The National Association for Music Education, which supervises and promotes music education in schools across the United States.
Parks and recreation
Restonians can avail themselves of the many cultural activities in Washington, D.C., by driving 20 miles (30 km) into the city or taking buses to connect to a Metro train. Two upscale shopping centers are located nearby in Tysons Corner, as well as the shops located throughout Reston and nearby Herndon.
Two miles (3 km) from Reston on Leesburg Pike (Route 7) is the Colvin Run Mill, operated by the Fairfax County Park Authority. It is a working 1811 gristmill that won a first-place restoration award from the American Institute of Architects in 1973. The miller’s house, barn, and historic post office/gift shop provide visitors with a glimpse of nineteenth century rural Virginia life. Daily public tours are offered. A few miles to the west along the same road there is the historic 1820 Dranesville Tavern, also operated by the park authority and rented out for weddings, parties, and corporate functions.
Also in Reston is the 476-acre (1.9 km2) Lake Fairfax Park, operated by the county. It features boat rentals from a new marina, a large outdoor pool complex called “The Water Mine,” overnight campground facilities, picnic areas, and fireworks on Independence Day.
The Reston Zoo is located on the northeast edge of the community. It has 30 acres (120,000 m2) dedicated to family-friendly animal interaction with wagon rides and feeding stations. The animals include zebras, antelope, bison, ostrich, alligators, camels, goats, a reptile house, and waterfowl.
Reston has an assortment of pools, which are dedicated for recreational use in the summer, located near man-made freshwater lakes. An indoor poor is open year-round in the Reston Community Center. The Reston Association Nature Center provides services such as nature walks, charity events, and conservation efforts.
Two golf courses are located in Reston, one public and one private. Each neighborhood has its own public swimming pool and there are many tennis courts located near Lake Anne.
The Washington and Old Dominion trail, a 45-mile (72 km) long pathway built solely for pedestrian and bicycle traffic, also runs through Reston.
Reston has 55 miles (89 km) of pathways that wind throughout the community. The centerpiece of Reston’s focus on nature is the Vernon J. Walker Nature Education Center. Walker Nature Center’s 72 acres (290,000 m2) of hardwood forest provide the setting for a picnic pavilion, campfire ring, and other facilities that support its outreach programs. On November 19, 2008, construction began on a new nature house on the north side of the center. When completed in 2009, it will be LEED gold-certified.
Museums and galleries
Reston is home to two dedicated art galleries: one in Reston Town Center, the other at Lake Anne. The Lake Anne gallery has space where patrons can view the artists’ studios and works.
Reston also has a museum about its history, called the Reston Historic Museum. It has maps, photos, and books that detail Reston in its current and past states.
Reston is served by the Reston Regional Library. The library contains over 215,000 volumes and houses an extensive collection on the history of Reston.
Reston straddles the Dulles Technology Corridor and is home to the headquarters of two Fortune 500 corporations of 11 in the Washington, D.C. area: (NVR and Sallie Mae). It is also home to the United States Geological Survey, the National Wildlife Federation, and CNRI.
Of the 20 largest venture capital firms in the D.C. area, five are in Reston. The amount of capital under management of the Reston firms, $6.9 billion, represents 53% of those top 20 regional venture capital firms.
Reston is a 10-minute drive from Tysons Corner and the Capital Beltway to the east, and Washington Dulles International Airport to the west. Reston has four local exits on the Dulles Toll Road. Direct access to and from the airport is free.
The Dulles Toll Road splits the community along a west-to-east axis, while several roads run north-south: Fairfax County Parkway on the western side, Reston Parkway through the center of town, Wiehle Avenue through the northeastern residential section, and Hunter Mill Road on the eastern border.
Office space in Reston is primarily located along two roads running east-west on either side of the Dulles Toll Road, Sunrise Valley Drive to the south and Sunset Hills Road to the north.
When Metrorail is extended to Dulles Airport along the right-of-way in the middle of the Dulles Toll Road, two stations will be located in Reston. The first will be near the Wiehle Avenue/Dulles Toll Road interchange (phase one) and the second will be at the Reston Parkway/Dulles Toll Road interchange (phase two). A third station will straddle the Herndon/Reston border at the existing Herndon Monroe transit hub.Fairfax County provides several commuter express buses from free park-and-ride lots to the West Falls Church Metrorail station.
The Reston Internal Bus System (RIBS) is a set of four routes that circulate within the community, using Reston Town Center as a transfer point. The fare system is the same as that of Fairfax Connector. RIBS has been operated for 20 years by Fairfax County’s Fairfax Connector bus service. Metrobus service is available to Washington Dulles International Airport from the Herndon Monroe Park and Ride (which is located in Reston), and it is also possible to take routes to the West Falls Church metro station, which then connects with Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport.
Twelve percent of Reston citizens use a method other than car to commute to work. Five percent work from home. Two percent take the bus.
Because it is a planned community, Reston has many walking trails throughout. Bicycles are also permitted on the trails. Motor vehicles, except maintenance and police vehicles, are prohibited from using the walking trails.