At Lake Anne, a Legacy of Fine Design

By Marge Fahey
Special to The Washington Post
Saturday, July 20, 2002

Saturdays at Lake Anne in Reston bring people out for the weekly farmers' market. On weekends, neighbors say hello and read the newspapers over coffee at Lake Anne Coffee House while enjoying local entertainment. In the evening, tantalizing aromas waft from restaurants offering Italian, French and continental cuisine with views of the lake and fountain.

Lake Anne Village offers a laid-back lifestyle where people mingle, cultures mix, economic status feels unimportant, and the beauty of nature is always on display.

"What makes Lake Anne so special is community," said Robert E. Simon Jr., the developer who founded Reston in 1962. "It's a vastly extended family feeling."

Simon patterned Lake Anne after Portofino, an Italian coastal village. His goal was to create a community that blended the best of urban and rural life with a full range of housing styles and prices -- the kind of place that would encourage people to put down roots for a lifetime. He emphasized mixed-use development, so people could work near where they lived, and preservation of the area's natural beauty while providing recreational and cultural facilities.

The architects selected by Simon were distinguished in their field and have gone on to receive recognition for other projects here as well. William Conklin and James Rossant were the architects for Lake Anne Village center and Chimney House. Chloethiel Smith, a well-known Washington architect, designed Waterview Cluster. Hickory Cluster was designed by Charles Goodman, who also designed Hollin Hills in Alexandria.

Conklin went on to design the Navy Memorial and Market Square in Washington, where he lives after moving from New York five years ago. He commutes to his office in New York. "I planned the Navy Memorial and Market Square, which was modeled after Lake Anne," Conklin said.

In the early '60s, the New York firm of Whittlesey & Conklin was hired by Simon to do a master plan for Reston because of its experience in designing new cities. "As we became involved in the master plan (we were both architects and town planners), he decided to try us out on the concept of villages," Conklin said. "We introduced the concept of mixed uses and wrote the first zoning that permitted this."

For the first time, Conklin said, townhouses were built in the country, and he received inquiries about the groundbreaking idea from around the country.

Lake Anne was the first village center built in the new town. In late 1964, Simon's vision came to life when the first families moved in.

Although Lake Anne Village has had its share of struggles -- original home sales were slow; plaza shops have experienced periods of economic decline -- almost 40 years later, it retains its mission as a mixed-use community centered on quality of life and human interaction. Today, it is home to more than 25 businesses.

Lake Anne Village consists of four townhouse clusters; a 60-unit, 15-story high-rise condominium; and a 240-unit high-rise apartment complex for people 62 and older. (This complex has a two-year waiting list for an apartment. Rent is based on income and runs $300 to $400 for a one-bedroom unit.)

Prices for condominiums at Heron House range from $99,000 for an efficiency to $225,000 for a two-bedroom, two-bath unit. Chimney House units are priced from $115,000 for a one-bedroom, one-bath model to $160,000 for a two-bedroom, two-bath unit.

Simon lived in the community from 1962 to 1967, before moving back to his native New York, where he had a house on five acres in Syosset on Long Island. But he says he felt isolated in that setting and didn't like having to depend on a car to go everywhere. He moved back to Reston in 1993.

"I had friends here, and the idea of community brought me back, and believe me I am glad that I did come back."

Simon met his then-49-year-old companion, Cheryl Terio, in the elevator of Heron House, a 15-story high-rise overlooking the man-made lake. Then 79, he was on his way out for a walk one Sunday. Terio has lived in Lake Anne since 1969. Her two children grew up there and walked to elementary school. She moved to Heron House in 1992 and shares Simon's sense of what makes Lake Anne special: "I think the ambiance. There's a human scale that allows people to interact. When you have been here awhile, it's difficult to come out without running into someone you know."

In addition to community, Simon likes the convenience of having everything within close proximity. Lake Anne boasts a bank, pharmacy, church, bookstore, museum, beauty salon, barber shop, dry cleaners, wine and cheese shop, Spanish market, community center, art gallery and three restaurants, in addition to other small businesses.

Another priority on Simon's list of what makes Lake Anne special is the aesthetics of the area. "The beauty of what nature has done and what man has done are all here," he said.

Terio noted that Simon won an award in April from the American Planning Association, designating Reston a landmark project and Simon a "urban pioneer." He joins the ranks of past recipients such as Frederick Law Olmsted, who designed New York's Central Park, and Pierre L'Enfant, who drew up the street plan for Washington.

Another longtime resident, Guy L. Rando, has helped shape Reston since graduating from Harvard in 1961. After he worked on the master plan for the 7,500-acre development, he did site planning for the first phase of construction -- Lake Anne and two other clusters -- through 1965. He moved back to Lake Anne permanently in 1969.

"I saw it as a unique opportunity and have been here ever since," he said. "I was very proud of what I did and thought I would like to see the experiment through. Also, I thought it was an opportunity to open a practice [urban design and landscape architecture] in the D.C. area."

That was 33 years ago, and in the years since, Rando, 65, has lived in seven houses on Lake Anne. He stays, he said, "because you can't find an environment like this anymore. My kids used to ride their bicycles on the plaza. I meet people I know, and they say hello. That's a big difference in life. There's an engagement of cultures. It makes you feel more at home."

Along with its many long-term residents, the community also has young newcomers. Rania Hanano, recently divorced, moved to Lake Anne in February with her 5-year-old daughter, Tayma. Hanano, 31, was born in Syria, grew up in Kuwait and lived in Montreal before moving to Virginia.

Now Hanano's office at a Lake Anne company that builds and services Web sites is a five-minute walk from her townhouse overlooking the lake.

"I moved here because it was close to my work and there was a community here that I became a part of," Hanano said. "It's just like a big family, and I am close to all my friends. It's a good place for my daughter to grow up. We can walk everywhere, and when she plays here I know she's safe. It's one of those communities that doesn't exist anymore."

Among the young people living in Lake Anne are also some second-generationers who grew up here.

"I moved to Reston in 1969 when I was 3," said Alec Berry, now 35. "I lived behind Lake Anne Elementary School until I went to college." After college, he lived in Sterling for six years and started a Web development company called Exit1 Inc., working out of his home. In 1997, he moved his office to the Lake Anne Plaza and in 1999 when a condominium on the plaza became available, he moved to the community, fulfilling a lifelong goal. "I can remember coming here at a young age and looking up at the units and saying I want to live there," he said.

Berry's parents, Eileen and Samuel Harahan, still live in Lake Anne, and his grandfather, Irving Burach, moved here in 1997 from New York and lives in Fellowship House, the senior living high-rise apartment not far from the lake. The whole family recently celebrated Burach's 90th birthday at il Cigno, a restaurant overlooking the lake.

"After dinner, my cousins rented a boat and went out on the lake," said the young entrepreneur. "Here's the next generation of my family enjoying the same things I enjoyed."

Berry is working on putting together a village Internet network for Lake Anne. This spring, he started another new business, RestonTech Ltd., from his Lake Anne home. He said he plans to stay in Lake Anne because it provides everything he needs. "There are so many of my friends from high school who hang out on a regular basis. This whole community has that type of effect," he said. "We didn't want to go anywhere else."

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