FOUNDER OF RESTON, VIRGINIA
Pioneer of Intentional Community, Real-estate Developer & Community Builder
Robert E. Simon, Jr., was born in New York City in 1914. After graduating from Harvard, Simon took over the family real estate management and development business. In 1961, with the proceeds from the sale of a family property, Carnegie Hall, Simon purchased 6,750 acres of land in Fairfax County, Virginia, which would become Reston, Virginia. Reston is now recognized as the foremost urban intentional community in the United States. Simon’s new town concept emphasized quality of life for the individual and provided a community where people could live, work, and play without driving long distances.
Reston was conceived as a planned community by Robert E. Simon. Founded on April 10, 1964 (Simon’s 50th birthday) and named for his initials, it was the first modern, post-war planned community in America, sparking a revival of the planned community concept. The growth and development of Reston has been monitored by newspaper articles, national magazines, and scholarly journals on architecture and land use.
Part of the New Town movement, from the beginning Reston was designed to follow “guiding principles” in its development that would stress quality of life. Citizens would be able to live in the same community while going through different life cycles with different housing needs as they age. It was hoped that Restonians could live, work, and have recreation in their own community, with common grounds and scenic beauty shared equally regardless of income level.
Among the problems in these communities that Reston responded to included income segregation, a lack of natural preservation, suburbs that served only as bedroom communities for commuters, a lack of public space in new developments, and a lack of community ties in new developments. Many early residents settled in Reston because of the ideals of the community. Fifty years later, the town he christened with his own initials — Reston — has nearly 60,000 residents and about 60,000 daily workers.