Del. Ken Plum: Best Place to Live

This is a commentary from Del. Ken Plum (D-Fairfax), who represents Reston in Virginia’s House of Delegates. It does not reflect the opinion of Reston Now.

An article in the most recent issue of Money magazine described the best places to live in each of the fifty states; not surprisingly for Virginia the highest ranked place to live is Reston. Reston is not a county, city or town but a big community of 61,319 mostly happy people.

As a native Virginian who has traveled extensively throughout the state, I fully concur with the selection of Reston as the best place to live in a state that is filled with many desirable places to live. However, I was disappointed in the narrative that justified Reston–even their explanation of Reston’s history missed the mark.

I agree that “Reston was once just an idea,” but calling Robert E. Simon “an architect and economist” misses the mark of who he was and what his significant contributions were to building a best place like Reston. Bob Simon was a visionary, philosopher, community builder and developer, and humanitarian. He envisioned a community in which people could live, work and play, and his success in bringing about such a place against great odds continues to be celebrated.

Justification for the selection of Reston is understandably limited as the magazine contained descriptions of 50 communities. It says about Reston, “the thriving Washington, D.C. suburb offers a woodsy atmosphere that includes expanses of parks, lakes, golf courses, and bridle paths. Over 50 miles of pathways were designed to weave in and around its communities to increase pedestrian safety and to ensure that most residents’ homes were no more than a half-mile walk to village centers.” It mentions Reston Town Center that it calls “the community hub,” with an array of dining, entertainment, and shopping venues along with headquarters of major corporations.

Beyond quibbling with some details of the description, I would have chosen other factors that make Reston such a desirable place to live. Noteworthy is the openness of the community to all people from its very beginning. Simon was inviting African Americans to the community while the rest of the state was opposing fair housing laws. The diversity of people living, working and playing together that is occurring in communities throughout the country was a hallmark of

Reston from the beginning and is a value that is baked into the DNA of the community. Muslims pray in local synagogues. A local ecumenical church has four denominations meeting in one service. Its schools are happy places with children of all abilities learning together. It has a variety of housing options, from apartments, condominiums, town and single-family homes and senior and assisted living. It may be the only community in America that requested a homeless shelter be built in it. On a recent weekend, community members attended a social event that raised nearly $450,000 to pay for the relocation costs of families moving out of the shelter.

I love the lakes, trails and facilities of Reston. Most of all, however, I love the people of Reston –their caring, activism and spirit, all of which make it the best place to live in Virginia.

The General Assembly is going full blast. I will update you on what is happening in future columns.

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