Nearly 50 years after Reston’s founding, the suburbs have expanded to engulf it, and Washington Plaza is dwarfed by the behemoth Reston Town Center a mile down the road. But Lake Anne residents say that what keeps them in the neighborhood is exactly what Simon envisioned five decades ago: the homes, shops, restaurants, bike paths, parks and playgrounds clustered into a walkable neighborhood, and the sense of community that comes with getting out of your car and seeing your neighbors.
“The plaza does more than anything else for community,” said Simon. “This morning I went down there at 9:30. And it’s a wonderful feeling — talking to people that you know well, and talking to people you don’t know so well. . . . Here you can’t go for a walk without meeting somebody.”
The neighborhood centers on the plaza, which is surrounded by low-rise buildings with shops and restaurants on the ground floor and condominiums above. A 15-story high-rise, Heron House, stands nearby. The north shore of half-mile-long Lake Anne, a man-made lake where residents use kayaks and pedal boats on nice days, laps against the foot of the plaza. Townhouse clusters and some single-family homes stretch along the lake’s shores.
“I love that you don’t have to get in your car for everything,” said Charlotte Geary, 36, a photographer who lives in one of the townhouses with her husband, Mike Pritchard, 35.
They can walk to the produce-and-crafts market that takes over the plaza on Saturday mornings in the summer; they can listen to the bands that play free concerts there on Thursday nights. Geary is looking forward to taking their infant son Daniel to activities at the community center soon. And Pritchard has taken up playing soccer with a group that calls itself the “ROMEOS” — Reston Older Men Enjoying Outdoor Sports.
“The people here are so friendly,” Pritchard said.
Local real estate agent and longtime resident Eve Thompson loves the neighborhood’s offbeat charm. Thompson, 50, has lived in Reston since 1987. She raised her children in a single-family home about a mile from Lake Anne. Ten years ago she and her husband settled into a townhouse on the lake, and a few years after that they moved to a condo in the Heron House high-rise.
Lake Anne is “just quirky,” said Thompson, who has an office on the plaza and is president of the Lake Anne Merchants Association. “We have a ukulele festival every summer. I just feel like that’s so Lake Anne.”
But the quirkiness isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. The plaza’s gray-concrete-and-tan-brick 1960s architecture is striking — the modern buildings were designed by James Rossant, a student of Walter Gropius at Harvard. But many commenters on the popular local blog Restonian, and elsewhere, complain that the plaza could use a facelift.