Reston @ 50: Villages Village Centers, Green Spaces, and Schools
In 1962 Robert Simon originally envisioned seven distinct villages, each with its own village center and housing about 10,000 inhabitants, spread throughout Reston. The village center would feature community-related activities, shopping, dining, banking, and other services. Village centers would be no more than a one-half mile walk from the most distant point of the village. Higher density housing, such as townhomes, condominiums, and apartments, were to be placed closer to the village center in cluster arrangements, while single-family homes were planned to be further out from the village center. Simon envisioned that a centrally-located Town Center would be created to tie the town together. The Town Center would be an urban center with shopping, cultural activities, meeting spaces, and high density housing within the greater mostly-rural development. The first phase of the Town Center opened nearly thirty years later in 1990.
Five villages were eventually built in Reston. Each had its own distinct character, showcased in the village center. Lake Anne, the first village, opened in 1964 and inspired by the village of Portofino on the Italian coast, had a boating theme. Hunters Woods (1966) had an equestrian theme, and for a time featured a stable and a network of equestrian trails. Tall Oaks Village (1974), just east of Lake Anne, was built on slightly higher elevations and took its inspiration from the European hill towns. South Lakes Village (1984) is set near Lakes Thoreau and Audubon and the Vernon Walker Nature Center. North Point (1993) Reston’s newest village is a much lower-density, heavily-wooded neighborhood with a smaller lake and a visitor’s center.
In order to manage nearly 1,000 acres of undeveloped wooded and open space, the Reston Foundation for Community Programs hired Vernon J. Walker as Director of Open Space Management for the Reston Homeowners Association (later the Reston Association) in mid-1966. Walker was a passionate teacher and naturalist with a flair for generating interest in the study of ecology and living things in both children and adults. During his first year with Reston, Walker proposed a plan for a nature center to promote conservation and learning about the environment, plants, and animals of Reston. Seventy acres of open space were set aside for the nature center that was later named for Walker after his death in 1982.
There are more than twenty public schools in Reston today, but children of the first residents of Reston had to be bused to schools in nearby Herndon and other locales. Parents often had to drive their children to bus stops outside of the community because many secondary roads in Reston were simply dirt roads, on which county buses would not travel. Reston’s first elementary school, Lake Anne Elementary, opened in January 1967, about two years after Reston’s first residents moved in. Ten years later, Terrasett Elementary, an innovatively designed school built into the side of a hill and featuring a “green-roof” and solar collectors, opened in South Lakes Village to serve school children in that neighborhood. The Fairfax County Public Schools system administers thirteen other elementary schools, one secondary school, and four middle schools within Reston neighborhoods.