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Monday, April 8, 2013

Reston: The "other" Columbia

     Last week I purchased a treadmill off of Craigslist and it took me to Reston for the first time.  I have driven past Reston on the Dulles Access Road a number of times but never seemed to have time to stop and look around Reston.  First the good, then the bad.
     As you can see above the "downtown" Reston looks nothing like our downtown.  Reston has a real downtown that is something those of us in Columbia would envy.  As we talk about creating a new Town Center for Columbia I would suggest a visit to Reston to see their Town Center.

   Unfortunately trying to drive and take pictures of Reston's Town Center was hard as you can see with the poor quality of my phone camera picture above.  Since it does do justice to the place I have pulled some photos off of Google Images to give a better representation of the Town Center.

    The first thing you notice is how many people the area attracts at all times of the day.  The picture above is an open air plaza by a number of restaurants.

   As you can see the open plaza attracts a large crowd for its summer concerts.

In the Winter the plaza is flooded and becomes an ice skating rink.

The area takes on a holiday atmosphere that is hard to duplicate in an enclosed mall.

     In my opinion we have been stuck with an outdated 1960's Columbia Mall that hinders us from having a more vibrant downtown like Reston.  I have always felt that the creation of a really vibrant downtown atmosphere for Columbia would start by tearing down the mall with its large parking lots and doing something like what I saw in Reston.  We maybe seeing the first phase of this with the tearing down of the LL Bean store and the creation of an open air plaza area on the back side of the Mall.
      You can get a small scale "downtown" retail area in our area in what is being developed in Maple Lawn. 
      Now the bad news on Reston.  While their does seem to be a great deal of green space the absence of a community path system makes biking, walking or running more of a challenge in Reston.

The housing stock in Reston looked dated and bland.

   I am not sure how much of it was created after the 1970's but is looked like cheaply built contemporary housing from what I saw.  Driving around I didn't see any lakes or water features to the town.  Finally, Reston looked like "trendy, upscale chain store heaven."  Not that we don't have that in Columbia too but we have the ethnic diversity that still reflects that value instilled in Columbia's founding.
      So my ideal community---Reston's downtown where our Columbia Mall is but keeping the rest of Columbia with our lakes and path system and diversity.

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