On Reston's 50Th Birthday, Founder Recalls Inspiration For New Kind Of Suburb (Transcript) | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio

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On Reston's 50th Birthday, Founder Recalls Inspiration For New Kind Of Suburb

MS. REBECCA SHEIR

00:00:03
We'll wrap up today's show in Virginia where one of our region's best known planned communities celebrates its 50th anniversary this month. Reston, Virginia was the brainchild of a wealthy New Yorker named Robert E. Simon. His family had owned and managed Carnegie Hall for decades. Simon sold that venerable landmark to the city of New York in 1960.

MS. REBECCA SHEIR

00:00:22
A few years later, he bought a piece of land in Northern Virginia, about half the size of his native Manhattan and in 1964, that piece of land became a kind of urban utopia with self-contained neighborhoods and no restrictions based on race. "Metro Connection's" John Hines sat down to talk with Simon at his favorite cafe on the eve of his 100th birthday and sent us this audio postcard.

MR. ROBERT E. SIMON

00:00:46
Having a contract to buy a property that was half the size of Manhattan, what to do with it? Well, clearly, it was too big for a shopping center. And I sat down with a yellow pad and wrote down everything I could think of that would work with a property of that size. And I had been to Europe, and I had been around the United States and so I listed all of these things that I had seen and then I struck out a few that seemed irrelevant.

MR. ROBERT E. SIMON

00:01:20
The county had said that we need a name for this before we can go forward with processing your plans, and we need it by next Monday. So a PR person came up with "Simon City" and that didn't appeal to me very much, so my wife and my mother came up with the idea of Reston, Robert E. Simon Town. It’s not unfair to say that in the housing market, typically the things that sell the most are bathrooms and kitchens, and Reston is selling community.

MR. ROBERT E. SIMON

00:01:54
Certainly, in the early days, there were people who considered themselves pioneers and who packed up and left someplace in the middle west to come here because they wanted to be in this place. The reason Reston continued to prosper was because the small portion of U.S. citizens who value community are there, and one of the places in the United States they want to go to is Reston.

SHEIR

00:02:21
That was Reston, Virginia founder Robert E. Simon speaking with "Metro Connection's" John Hines.

SHEIR

00:02:35
And that's "Metro Connection" for this week. We heard from WAMU's Jonathan Wilson, Jacob Fenston, Lauren Ober, Kavitha Cardoza and Bryan Russo along with reporter John Hines. WAMU's Managing Editor of News is Memo Lyons. "Metro Connection's" managing producer is Tara Boyle. Lauren Landau is our editorial assistant. Our intern is Tyler Daniels. And thanks, as always, to the WAMU engineering and digital media teams for their help with production and the "Metro Connection" website.

SHEIR

00:03:00
Our theme song, "Every Little Bit Hurts," is from the album, "Title Tracks," by John Davis, and used with permission of the Ernest Jennings Record Company. We have information on all the music we use on metroconnection.org. Just click a story and you'll find information about its accompanying song. You can also hear the entire show on our website by clicking "This Week On Metro Connection," or, by subscribing to our podcast or also on iTunes, Stitcher and the NPR News app.

SHEIR

00:03:23
We hope you can join us next week when we'll visit the more rural corners of our region with a show we're calling Town and Country. We'll hear about one woman's mission to save southern Maryland farmland. We'll meet the Delaware residents who rally to save a local theater and we'll bring you the latest installment in our literary series, Book End. I'm Rebecca Sheir and thank you for listening to "Metro Connection," a production of WAMU 88.5 News.
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