City planners use Reston as a model

The five-hour tour, hosted by the Reston Association, included stops at the Reston Museum, above, and a guided driving tour of Reston's parks and recreation facilities
The five-hour tour, hosted by the Reston Association, included stops at the Reston Museum, above, and a guided driving tour of Reston's parks and recreation facilities (Tracy A. Woodward)

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By Janet Rems
Special to the Fairfax County Times
Thursday, March 3, 2011

As one of the best-known planned communities in the United States, Reston continues to be a frequent destination for visitors from around the world seeking to learn the secrets of its success.

Last year, a Chinese delegation came to the town to study Reston's stream restoration project. A few weeks ago, a group of urban planners and developers from Brazil picked up some tips for a city construction project outside the capital of Brasilia. Most recently, two dozen South Korean academics, professional planners and provincial government leaders arrived Feb. 25 to study Reston's quality of life and institutions.

The visitors, who are from the South Korean province of Jeollanam-do, are involved in the construction of a new "Innovative City," which their literature describes as "a competitive city with a high quality of life in environment-friendly residential areas."

Similar in size to Reston, the city, which is scheduled to be completed in 2012, is expected to have a population of 50,000 with 20,000 households. Reston's population is about 62,000 with about 21,000 households.

When officials of his province were planning the new city, they used Reston as their model, said Na Do-Pal, director of the Innovation City Construction Department, speaking through a translator.

"We are making a global city . . . with a good education system, culture and nature," he said.

Reston is well-known in South Korea and is studied by planners and developers, said Seung Kwang Shon, an architect, professor and director of the Dongshin University's Institute of Eco Urban & Architecture. That was one reason the delegation chose it as part of its tour, which included a visit to a "school of the future" in Philadelphia, and Richmond, British Columbia, an innovative community in Canada outside Vancouver.

Jinsang Cho, chief professor at Dongshin University's Research Institute for Regional Development, said he was impressed by Reston's two different centers - the Lake Anne Village Center, which is considered Reston's historic heart and opened in 1965, and Reston Town Center, which opened in 1990 and is the 80-acre center of the community's 460-acre developing urban core.

The five-hour tour, which was hosted by the Reston Association, included stops at the Reston Museum and a guided driving tour of Reston's parks and recreation facilities.

Town founder Robert E. Simon served as the guide during the short walking tour of Lake Anne Village Center. Simon said that location was a key factor in his decision to build Reston "between what was then the proposed Dulles International Airport and the nation's capital."

Reston was the first major development in which commercial development preceded residential, Simon said.

Joe Ritchey, principal of Prospective Inc., a commercial real estate brokerage and consulting firm in Reston, spoke to the visitors about the development of Reston Town Center.

"How do you create an instant downtown where there was nothing?" he said, reiterating the challenge that faced Reston's developers. Ritchey said that center developers used "critical mass" to help create its sense of place and a strong pedestrian zone and to "bring vitality to the streetscape."

This critical mass was achieved in part, he said, by making the Town Center's streets just wide enough "to create a sense of compression . . . to make it feel urban."

Barbara Rovin, executive director of the Reston Town Center Association, said the arts also are a key part of the center's quality of life. In addition to outdoor concerts, the center has promoted public art "to show what a special place we are," she told the visitors.

Before leaving, the visitors presented Simon- who turns 97 on April 10 - with a gift of green tea.

"They say it will help you live longer," the translator told Reston's founder.


© 2011 The Washington Post Company

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