From A To B: The 'father' Of Reston (Transcript) | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio

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The 'Father' of Reston

MS. REBECCA SHEIR

13:25:24
I'm Rebecca Sheir and welcome back to "Metro Connection." Today, we're talking about house and home. And in order to create a home, well, you got to build it, right? And next we're going to meet a man who didn't just build one home in the region, he built thousands from scratch. It's all on our weekly transportation segment, "From A to B."

MS. REBECCA SHEIR

13:25:51
Bob Simon founded the town of Reston in Northern Virginia. One of the first mixed use planned communities in the country. He purchased the land that's now Reston in 1960. And back then, he says, you'd find more cows living in the area then people. Now, Simon is 96 and Reston is a bustling suburb of 58,000 residents. Residents who, incidentally, struggle with some of the country's worst traffic. Transportation reporter David Schultz sat down with Simon to talk about his dreams for Reston and what it feels like to live in a town that prominently features a statue of, well, yourself.

MR. BOB SIMON

13:26:27
I love the feeling of warmth. It's a very warm feeling. I enjoy it. I like people and I enjoy contact.

MR. DAVID SCHULTZ

13:26:35
I've always thought that was so odd. Usually, when a statue is erected of someone, it's after they pass as posthumously. What's that like? How does it make you feel?

SIMON

13:26:42
Warm. I enjoy the feeling of being part of this community and having them happy to have me here.

SCHULTZ

13:26:51
So tell me about what you did in the early 1960s to found the town of Reston? How did that process come about? Where did the idea come from? And what exactly did you do to make it happen in, I guess, it'd be 50 years ago?

SIMON

13:27:05
The property that is mostly Reston or most of the property that is Reston today was offered to me by a broker who came up from Washington. A property this size had to be a whole community. Too big for a single purpose.

SCHULTZ

13:27:25
So you wanted to create a new town out of the land that you had purchased?

SIMON

13:27:29
Yes.

SCHULTZ

13:27:29
And you mentioned that this land was too big for one specific purpose although it seems like that was going against the grain back then. Because many towns in the outer suburbs were just residences back then. What -- why did you decide to do something different with your (word?) land?

SIMON

13:27:46
I had traveled fairly extensively in the world and I was particularly taken by the Italian hill towns with their plazas. But, of course, plazas are common in Europe. And for some reason, they never took off in our country. You have to be in a plaza to know what it's all about and how people live. If you want a community, you want to intermingle ages, sexes, races so that people don't live in isolated enclaves. But are living together. So if you were to look out of the window here, you'd see that these townhouses are of different sizes.

SIMON

13:28:28
Right next to each other. They're not all the same size. And the reason for that is to make it possible for people of different income groups to associate with each other.

SCHULTZ

13:28:38
Well, I want to talk about the success that you've had. I mean, the town of Reston clearly is a enormous success. But do you think in some ways it's too successful? Traffic is pretty bad in the Northern Virginia area. Reston, you know -- Reston in particular, did you anticipate that? Was that something that surprised you?

SIMON

13:28:57
I had no idea that we would be part of Silicone Valley East because in those days, there wasn't a Silicon Valley West. But we are that now so that we have a concentration in Northern Virginia. And I don't imagine we ever thought that the concentration would be quite so intense.

SCHULTZ

13:29:19
But, so what to do, I guess, about all this traffic? I mean, the roads here are clogged, they're getting worse, it seems like there's gridlock in Richmond, about what to do about it? What would you like to see happen to relieve some of this congestion?

SIMON

13:29:31
It's a challenge, I really don't -- I'm not able to tell you I know how to solve it. Unless the American public can get more involved and bicycling and walking. That's the real challenge, but it's not going to happen, I don't think. People just don't ride their bikes the way we imagined they would and the way they do in Europe, in certain parts of Europe.

SHEIR

13:29:57
That was Bob Simon, the founder of Reston, Va., talking with transportation reporter, David Schultz. Simon's accomplishments will be celebrated at a founders day event in Reston this weekend. For more information and to see a photo of Simon posing with that statue, visit our website metroconnection.org.
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