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Robert E. Simon, Visionary, and the Reston Master Plan

By Patty  Nicoson

Robert E. Simon was born in New York City on April 10, 1914 into a family that had  emigrated from Germany. His father developed a successful real estate BobSimon_HuntersWoodsVisit2management business.  Bob graduated from Harvard University and took over the family business at age 21 when his father died suddenly. After several decades of managing Carnegie Hall, Bob sold  it in 1961 and invested the proceeds to purchase 6,750 acres of land in Fairfax County not too far from the Washington Dulles International Airport, which was then being planned and was soon to be under construction.

Bob’s father had worked on the planning of Radburn, an early attempt to provide an attractive, open space and pedestrian-oriented community that accommodated the car. This influenced Bob’s lifelong interest in planning and in the creation of community.

Planning for Reston began in the early 1960s.  Reston gets its name from Bob’s initials R-E-S ton. In creating Reston, Bob’s major goals were:

That the widest choice of opportunities be made available for the full use of leisure time. A wide range of cultural and recreational facilities were to be made available, as well as an environment of privacy.

That it would be possible for anyone to remain in a single neighborhood throughout his or her life by providing the fullest range of housing styles and prices serving various income levels at the four different stages of a household’s life.

That the importance and dignity of each individual be the focal point for all planning. It was the first open community in Virginia, open to people of all races. The Commonwealth of Virginia had enforced segregation in housing and educational facilities.  Today, Reston is a vibrant, multi-cultural community with an annual festival that celebrates this diversity.

That people be able to live and work in the same community.

That beauty — structural and natural — is a necessity of the good life and should be fostered.  Natural beauty is a hallmark of the Reston community, as is high quality architecture and urban design.

Two community design review boards and a set of covenants governing the appearance of structures have helped the community maintain an appealing physical environment.

The final of the original goals was that since Reston was being developed for private enterprise, in order to be completed as conceived it must also, of course, be a financial success.  It wasn’t for Bob Simon since he was fired by Gulf Reston, but over the decades the concept of mixing uses in a community has come to the fore in planning circles.  The mixed-use Reston Town Center is the forerunner of the walkable urban environment that is now desired by employers, employees and developers, as well as residents.  The Town Center has proven to be an enormous financial success.

Bob Simon’s vision for Reston emphasizes the dignity of its residents and their 20150925 037 Bob Simon Candlelight vigilquality of life. The community was designed as a place where you could live, work, and play because of the mix of uses being provided: housing, retail, office space and other places of employment, worship, parks and other recreational amenities, and schools.

Simon hired the architectural and planning firm of Conklin + Rossant to do the Master Plan for Reston.  In 1962, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors approved the Residential Planned Community (RPC) zoning that made Reston possible by providing the ability to build a mix of uses within an area and the flexibility to respond to market conditions over time.

Construction began on Lake Anne and the Lake Anne Village Center in 1963. In 1964, the first industrial tenant came to Reston and the first residents moved in.

In 1967, Gulf Reston bought Bob Simon’s development interest. In 1973, Reston’s first office building, the International Center on Sunrise Valley Drive, was dedicated and the nearly 1,000,000 square-foot U.S. geological survey headquarters opened. In 1979, the Reston Community Center opened, funded by a special tax district. Also in 1979, Mobil Land bought Reston, which by then had grown to 30,000 residents and 49 community businesses. In 1996, Reston Land sold its holdings to Westerra, which was renamed Westbrook Communities.

In 1990, the first phase of Reston Town Center opened and was hailed for its innovative urban design of retail, hotel, and office uses served by a grid of privately owned streets in contrast to the suburban shopping malls that had been developed around the country. In 1997, Reston Town Center added more shops, office buildings and high rise residential towers.

Today, Reston is a community of 62,000 residents and 68,000 employees. It is possible to live and work in Reston and more than one third of the residents do so. It is also possible to live in Reston without a vehicle. The plan for Reston with its arterial, collector, and local streets facilitates transit services. The Reston Internal Bus System (RIBS) provides transportation within the community, but it now links the recently opened (July 26, 2014) Metrorail station at Wiehle-Reston East to the town center and the commercial buildings along Sunrise Valley and Sunset Hills Roads.

Phase 2 of the Silver line will have two additional stops at the Reston Town Center and Herndon stations.


When Bob Simon returned to live in Reston in 1993, he became very active in the community including serving on the Board of the Reston Association (RA); testifying in support and opposition to development projects; and frequently writing op ed pieces and letters to the editor in the local newspapers.  He also worked to ensure the completetion of a number of major community elements.  He spurred interest and support for the development of the Nature House in south Reston on the 75-acre nature preserve. The RA had for many years run programs and camp activities on the property, but these had been limited by the lack of an all-weather facility. With his active encouragement, residents began a campaign to raise funds for construction of the Nature House.  It has been a great community resource and is used by RA for its many educational programs and community events.

When the Reston Community Center opened in 1979 in the Hunter Mill Village shopping center, Bob Simon recognized that there was a need for an additional facility to serve the north side of Reston. He purchased space in the Lake Anne condominium and rented it to RA. A variety of programs are offered there and its community room is used for activities both public and private.

Bob Simon (and his wife Cheryl) were active participants in the planning process for the redevelopment of the Lake Anne Village Center and were involved in the selection of the development team that won approval to do the redevelopment and expansion of the center.

Fairfax County had amended its Comprehensive Plan in 2001 to reflect the arrival of bus rapid transit and rail in the Dulles corridor.  Recognizing that these planning recommendations were out of date in 2009, Supervisor Cathy Hudgins appointed a task force to update the Reston Master Plan.  Its recommendations were approved by the Fairfax County Board in February 2014.  Bob Simon was an active and effective participant in the four-year process making sure that the plan respected and built on his original principals.  Design excellence and environmental sustainability remained key elements, as well as diversity of housing types for all incomes.  He made sure that the plan language encouraged plazas, the traditional focal point of communities in the transit station areas and village centers as these areas develop and redevelop.

Bob remained active in many of the planning issues affecting the community until his death in September 2015.  He was involved with efforts to secure a performing arts facility, a new recreation facility, and the redevelopment of Reston Town Center north and the Tall Oaks Shopping Center.  Over the years, he had the ear of Reston’s Congressmen and state and local officials and was an effective lobbyist for Reston’s plans and projects.

Bob Simon’s Reston has had a worldwide influence on community planning with visitors coming from around the world to see this special community.  Bob served as a mentor to countless planners, architects, and the residents and students in Reston.  His wisdom, enthusiasm, and dedication to the community of Reston and its people will be sorely missed.

Patty Nicoson serves as President of the Dulles Corridor Rail Association.


Skating Along METRO

Glide your way through winter car-free!

In need of some outdoor exercise that doesn’t require driving your car to the location?  Try taking METRO to one of these six outdoor ice skating rinks shutterstock_94932265conveniently located near a variety of METRO stations.  Hours of operation and fees vary from site to site, particularly during some warm, or extremely cold weather situations.  Best to call in advance.  So, get off the couch, grab your blades and jump on a METRO train to the nearest rink and have some great winter fun!


National Gallery of Art Ice Rink (Blue/Orange Lines Smithsonian Mall Exit, or Yellow/Green Lines Archives 7th Street Exit)

The 2015–2016 ice-skating season begins November 14 and continues through March 13, weather permitting. Experience ice-skating in the Sculpture Garden while surrounded by large-scale sculptures by contemporary artists, including Louise Bourgeois, Sol LeWitt, Tony Smith, Roy Lichtenstein, Roxy Paine, and others.  Rental skates are available for a fee.



Friday 10am-11pm

Saturday 11am-11pm

Sunday 11am-9pm


Please note the ice rink will be closed when it rains or when the temperature dips below 20°F. For the current status, please call (202) 216-9397.  Admission fee required.  The National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden is located on the National Mall at 7th Street and Constitution Avenue NW, is bounded by Constitution Avenue and Madison Drive and by 7th and 9th Streets NW.


Canal Park Ice Rink (Green Line Navy Yard/Ballpark New Jersey Ave. Exit; Circulator Bus as well)

Canal Park is a stunning new public park on the site of the historic Washington Canal in the heart of DC’s Capitol Riverfront neighborhood. With its dancing fountains in summer, vibrant ice rink in winter, and LEED Gold-certified water reuse systems, Canal Park is a sustainable and green neighborhood gathering place, and a destination for the entire city.

Canal Park is located in the vibrant Capitol Riverfront neighborhood at 2nd & M St. SE, one block from the Navy Yard/Ballpark Metro (New Jersey Ave. Exit).  Street address is: 202 M Street, SE Washington, DC 20003.  Fee for admission.


Monday & Tuesday
Wednesday, Thursday & Friday 12pm-9pm
Saturday 11am-10pm
Sunday 11am-7pm


Pentagon Row Ice Rink (Blue/Yellow Lines
Pentagon City Exit)

The plaza at Pentagon Row underwent major renovations to create a year-round experience for guests, and now boasts an ice rink that is 50% larger with an outdoor dual-sided stone fireplace for lounging during skating breaks. Pentagon Row’s 6,840 square foot ice rink is now the largest outdoor rink in Northern Virginia, and the second largest in the state.

Located at Pentagon Row Fashion Mall at 1201 Joyce Street, Arlington, VA.  Phone: 703-418-6666.  Fee for admission.


Sunday 10am – 7pm or 10pm*

Monday 12pm-10pm

Tuesday 12pm-10pm

Wednesday 12pm-10pm

Thursday 12pm-7pm or 10pm*

Friday 12pm-11pm

Saturday 10am-11pm

*If there are Ice Rentals we will close at 7pm and reopen at 9pm


Tysons Corner Ice Rink (Silver Line Tysons Corner Exit)

Glide your way into Winter on the beautiful new Tysons Corner Center Ice Rink! Open daily, with extended holiday hours, it offers not only public skating, but learn-to-skate lessons, birthday parties, weekly cartoon skates and Saturday Night Rock ‘n Skate.  Just over 6,000 square feet, the rink is also perfect for private parties and corporate outings.  The Skate Shop (2nd floor, next to Lord & Taylor) has over 500 pairs of skates in stock, from Toddler size 8 to a Men’s size 14, with figure, hockey and double-bladed skates available.

The Tysons Corner Center Ice Rink is located on the plaza between Lord & Taylor and Hyatt Regency. Address for the Tysons Corner Center Ice Rink; 1961 Chain Bridge Rd., McLean, VA 22102.  Phone: 703-356-1240.  Fee for admission.


Monday-Tuesday 3pm-7pm
Friday 3pm-11pm
Saturday 11am-11pm
Sunday 11am-7pm


Reston Town Center Ice Rink (Silver Line Whiele Avenue/Reston Exit)

Reston Town Center Ice Skating Pavilion is open seasonally from early November-mid-March, offering public skating every day and extended hours for all holidays. The skate shop is stocked with over 500 pairs of skates ranging from size 8 toddler through men’s size 13, in both figure and hockey styles. For the beginner skaters, try the double bladed, flat edge skates to walk across the ice until you’re ready to glide into a single bladed skate, available in size Youth 8-13.

Located in the heart of Reston Town Center at 1818 Discovery Street, Reston, VA.  Phone: 703-709-6300.  Fee for admission.


Monday 11am-7pm

Tuesday 11am-7pm

Wednesday 11am-10pm

Thursday 11am-10pm

Friday 11am-11pm

Saturday 11am-11pm

Sunday 11am-7pm


Rockville Town Square Ice Rink (Red Line Rockville Exit)

The ice rink at Rockville Town Square is the largest outdoor ice skating rink between Baltimore and Washington DC.  It is the largest in all of Montgomery County.  The rink is 7,200 square feet.

Located in the heart of Rockville, MD at the Rockville Town Square. 131 Gibbs Street, Rockville, MD. Phone: 301-545-1999.  Fee for admission.


Monday-Thursday12pm-10 pm

Friday 12pm-11pm

Saturday 10am-11pm

Sunday 10am-10pm

Extended hours on holidays


VRE Reaches a New Milestone

On November 16th VRE opened a new station in Spotsylvania County Spotsylvania Station Opening 1approximately 6 miles south of the City of Fredericksburg (near the intersection of  Rt. 17 and Crossroads Parkway).  VRE projects ridership to reach about 1,200 within the first six months of operation, providing needed relief to the I-95 corridor. The station has parking for 1,500 vehicles, is ADA accessible and includes ticket vending machines. As of November 30th, VRE added an additional route to the Fredericksburg line and now runs eight trains each way daily.

“Our Fredericksburg Line riders have been requesting more commuter rail service for a long time and we’re pleased to deliver greater flexibility and travel choices in the I-95 corridor. The opening of our new station in Spotsylvania County and near completion of a third railroad track between our Crossroads Yard facility and Mine Road have allowed us to provide the new train,” said Doug Allen, VRE Chief Executive Officer.  VRE provides about 20,000 daily rides and the additional train will add about 780 potential seats each way.  Within the first month, VRE’s data indicates an average of about 550 trips at the new Spotsylvania station.

The opening of the Spotsylvania station represents the first new station opened by VRE since the Lorton and Franconia/Springfield stations, which were opened 20 years ago.  VRE has recently undertaken a study to extend the Manassas line another 11 miles by opening stations in Gainesville and Haymarket.


No-hassle Skiing (or snowboarding or ice skating or tubing….)

Does the idea of a day of skiing without having to drive appeal to you? If it does, grab a few friends and charter a ride to the slopes!

No-hassle skiing is available to you simply by contacting a local charter company and arranging for a day of skiing without the problem of checking to make sure your car is ready for the trip. Or having to sit in your car in a traffic jam to reach the slopes that you like! You can leave the driving to a professional driver and arrive relaxed and ready to enjoy whatever you may like to do at your ski area of choice!

There are many charter companies, but several are located in Northern Virginia which will help keep your costs low. You can contact Reston Limousine at 703.478.0500 ( Universal Bus, located in Vienna, can be reached at 703.823.0000 (  Another company is Reston Coach at 703.444.4458 (

Each of these companies is a member of Virginia Tourism Corporation which adds a level of comfort to your planning. And each company also has a variety of vehicles available – accommodating a group of 15 to a full busload of more than 40. It is highly recommended that you call and talk with the company representative to book a charter group.

All of Virginia’s 4 major ski areas – Bryce, Massanutten, Wintergreen, and Homestead – offer group rates on ski lift tickets and rentals, so you’ll save money, time and most important, stress in getting to and from the slopes! You can also request that special needs be accommodated at Virginia’s ski areas. Surrounding states also have great skiing, and your charter bus company can take you there as well. Just ask!

Bryce Resort, located in Basye VA, is great for families with beginning or intermediate skiers. It also offers snow tubing and night skiing among other amenities. Enjoy après ski dining at the Copper Kettle Bar and Lounge. Contact Bryce at

Massanutten Resort, located in McGaheysville VA, boasts a spa, indoor water park, snowboarding and tubing, ice skating and night skiing. A choice of dining is available. You can learn more about the resort at

Wintergreen in Central Virginia is about a 3-hour drive from Northern Virginia, and offers double, triple, quad and 6-person lifts as well as ice skating, snow tubing, spa facilities, and night skiing. Dining is available at the Copper Mine or Bistro. Contact information is at

Omni Homestead, a 4-star resort in Hot Springs VA, offers skiing, ice skating, snowboarding and tubing, as well as a full spa in the luxury hotel. The Homestead offers many choices for dining. For more about the Homestead, contact


Welcome to the New Year!

The DATA staff and friends are excited about the coming year.  2016 should shape up to be an excellent year to explore ways you can live more and commute less!  Unfortunately, this past year we saw the passing of one of the most visionary, iconic planners of the 21st Century – Mr. Robert Simon.

Reston, the community designed and built by Robert Simon in the late 1960’s, was one of the most forward thinking developments of its time.  Based on a concept of mixed use – weaving commercial, retail and housing into a single, walkable/bikeable , community was a vision that few had at this time of an automobile-centric generation.

Today, Reston is still evolving into a community – and perhaps a future “city” – that exemplifies the idealistic community of work, live, and play all in close proximity.  This concept is a testiment to his vision and long lasting imprint on the Northern Virginia landscape.

Furthermore, the winter months often bring about a certain amount of malaise to our residents and readers – but it doesn’t have to be that way.  There are a lot of opportunities to get outside and have fun during the winter months.  Check out our article on Skating METRO; you do have options!

Ericka’s Corner is back as well, she will tell you more (in English and Spanish) about how you can improve your health while improving your commute.  We are also introducing our readers to the concept of school pools.  If you have children, and don’t know about this concept, please read our article.

In this edition of @livemore we introduce to you a variety of “winter” options to occupy your spare time and allow you to enjoy this time or year to its fullest.  So put your skates, snowshoes or skis on and get out there and have fun!  In closing, you shouldn’t be thinking about being holed up for the winter, you should be out living more and certainly commuting less.

James N. Larsen
Executive Director/CEO
Dulles Area Transportation Association