I went back to my hometown this weekend, thanks to Judy M, who organized a reunion of people who were kids in Reston in the late 60s and early 70s.
In 1965, Reston was revolutionary – a planned community with townhouses in the middle of the woods, high density housing surrounded by acres of common space. It was the anti-suburbia, clusters of homes linked to schools, churches, playgrounds and shops by separate and distinct pedestrian and vehicular systems. I walked to school, by myself, through wooded glades and underpasses. My sisters and I ran down the hill, over the footbridge and along the path by the lake to get to the pharmacy, where we bought candy and fed the ducks.
Today, to my Colorado-trained eyes, the trees are like a rainforest. The paths are cracked and crumbling. The buildings, cutting edge in their day, are looking a little worn. The philosophy that separated the home from the car also makes it impossible to get a wheelchair onto any of the sidewalks.
The shop owners, once pioneers who moved out beyond the Beltway believing, correctly, that people wanted something different in their community, are now conservative and insular – doors and aisles are too narrow, restrooms inaccessible, retail spaces up multiple steps, and there is little willingness to change. “This is a 30 year old building,” I was told with a shrug over and over. “There’s nothing we can do.” At the same time, the oldtimers lament that no one comes to shop here anymore, they’re all going to the new Target on the other side of town.