Loudoun's Face Is A Picture Of Change
Thursday, August 17, 2006
Rangoli, South Riding's first Indian restaurant, is set to open in about three weeks, but now the interior is covered in sawdust.
The walls of the 2,300-square-foot storefront have been painted a turmeric shade, and embroidered tapestries reminiscent of designs on Indian doorsteps are ready to be hung. Where ladders and boxes stand, carpeting and booths soon will be installed.
In the meantime, owner Kumar Iyer is planning his menu. He will offer chicken tikka masala , a popular dish among many non-Indians. But he knows there's a long line of people whose mouths are watering for vada pav , a vegetable dumpling served with bread that, in Bombay, is commonly sold on the streets. It is a familiar treat that is hard to come by for the more than 500 Indian families that live in South Riding.
That new cluster of Indians is reflective of the explosive growth in Loudoun County's Asian population. From July 2000 to July 2005, the number of Asians in Loudoun more than tripled, from 9,453 to 28,813, according to a U.S. Census report released earlier this month. Asians' share of Loudoun's total population increased from 5 percent to 11 percent over the same period.
The boom is especially evident in Loudoun communities near Fairfax County, such as South Riding and Dulles. But it is also registering in Ashburn and Aldie and throughout the county as Asian immigrants are drawn to the county for newer homes, competitive schools and high-paying jobs along the high-tech corridor.
Indians are the largest Asian group in Loudoun, with a population of 9,200, according to the American Communities Survey, additional census data that were released Tuesday. The Chinese, Vietnamese and Korean communities in the county are each about half that size, the survey found.
The survey also showed that 88 percent of Asians in Loudoun are first-generation immigrants. But this doesn't mean they are new to the area.
"A lot of people, when they see these numbers, they think they just came over [to the United States], but they are just redistributing themselves," said Stephen S. Fuller, a professor of public policy at George Mason University. "Many have moved two or three times."
Fuller said Loudoun's Asian population boom most likely involves immigrants who moved to Alexandria or Arlington County when they arrived in the region but are more established now and can afford homes in western Fairfax or Loudoun. In other words, he said, these are "immigrants who came here in the 1990s and are moving on up."
Jin Ah Oh, a real estate agent from Korea, moved to South Riding from Fairfax two years ago. She said she and her husband were looking for good schools for their two children and more land for the money they had to spend.
She still goes to Fairfax County for Korean church services in Vienna and to shop at Korean markets in Annandale. But she said she knows that Loudoun's Korean community will continue to grow, in part by word of mouth and family relationships.
"My sister is planning to move. And my parents are retiring, too, and when they retire, they plan to move here," she said.