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Weekend Discussion: What Should Happen to Former API HQ?

Back for Former API building in Reston

After testimony from state historic and architectural experts, the Fairfax County Planning Commission admits it did not fully investigate the historic significance of the former American Press Institute Building in Reston.

The building, which housed the API from 1974 to 2012, was designed by famous architect Marcel Breuer and is the only Breuer building in Virginia.

Breuer’s also designed UNESCO Headquarters in Paris, the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City, and buildings at New York University and Vassar College, among others.

Other advocates for rescuing the building have pointed out the historical significance for leaders in media and politics.

The Fairfax County Planning Commission heard the pleas for historic preservation — sort of. They send Sekas Homes‘ proposal for 34 townhomes and 10 condos to the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors on Thursday with a recommendation for denial.

Many Reston residents have suggested that the county try and buy it from its current owner and repurpose the more than 48,000-square-foot building as a new Reston Regional Library. A new library is planned for the Reston Town Center North area, with $10 million of county bond money set aside to build it.

While we wait for the supervisors’ vision of what should happen to the four-acre parcel along Sunrise Valley Drive, let’s hear your ideas.

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Op-Ed: API Hosted Pulitzer Prize Winners, Visionaries

Front of API BuildingThis is an op-ed by William L. Winter, Executive Director of the American Press Institute from 1987 to 2003. It does not reflect the opinion of Reston Now.

The many voices now calling for action to save Reston’s historic, Marcel Breuer-designed American Press Institute (API) building from demolition are singing in close concert with the city’s founding principles. This unique planned community called Reston was intended to be, and has, since its creation in the 1960s, been true to its founding principles of “Live, Work, Play, and Get Involved.”

As Reston has grown and matured, its leaders and most prominent institutions have worked hand-in-hand with residents to make sure the community is, in all ways possible, a special place. Reston today thus is a careful reflection of the city’s founding principles. Its parks, schools, golf courses, and other public venues exist comfortably and in careful balance with residential and commercial development, and echo founder Robert E. Simon’s call for a community of, by, and for those seeking immersion in the very best life that a true “community” can offer.

There can be no doubting that the historically and architecturally significant API building on Sunrise Valley Drive has contributed greatly to Reston’s feel of distinctiveness. To have within its borders a classic structure created by the famed designer of the Whitney Museum (now the Met Breuer) in New York City, the UNESCO Headquarters in Paris, the headquarters of the U.S. Departments of HUD and HEW in Washington, D.C., and many other noted structures around the globe gives Reston an air of style, class, and grace — a sense that the community truly understands and appreciates the best work of the world’s most talented individuals.

Adding to the API building’s special aura has been the flow of supremely talented women and men who came there as faculty members, guest speakers, and honored guests, including:

Washington Post Publisher Katharine Graham and Executive Editor Ben Bradlee, both of whom stood firm in supporting their newsroom’s dogged reporting during the Watergate saga;

Al Neuharth, newspaper visionary and chairman of Gannett Co., Inc., the largest publisher of U.S. newspapers. Neuharth created a national newspaper (USA TODAY) and turned it into a historic success despite critics who lampooned it as “McPaper” because of its reliance on brief stories. He then leveraged that success into the creation of The Freedom Forum and its Newseum, the highly popular Washington, D.C., museum devoted to celebration of the First Amendment. Neuharth also played a major role in API’s decision to move to Reston.

Pulitzer Prize winner Ellen Goodman, among the most widely syndicated columnists in the U.S., was the first woman to open the op-ed pages of newspapers across the country to female voices during an era when women began to speak loudly about equality.

Arthur Sulzberger Sr. and Jr., dynamic publishers of The New York Times. To this day, the Sulzberger family continues to pour huge resources into The Times’ newsroom, even as most other newspaper owners are in financial retreat.

Pulitzer Prize-winning journalists such as Washington Post investigative reporter Bob Woodward, who, in tandem with Post reporter Carl Bernstein, revealed the government corruption that came to be known as Watergate.

Janet Hill, a member of the board of directors of the general partner of the Carlyle Group, and a director of The Wendys Company, Dean Foods Company and Esquire Bank. From 1981 until her retirement in 2010, she served as Vice President of Alexander & Associates, Inc. She is married to Calvin Hill, a running back in the National Football League for 12 seasons. Grant Hill, a graduate of Reston’s South Lakes High School and a retired professional basketball player, is their son.

Doris Kearns Goodwin, Pulitzer Prize winner, biographer, historian, and political commentator. Kearnes Goodwin has written biographies of several U.S. presidents, including “The Fitzgeralds and the Kennedys: An American Saga” and “Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln.” “Lincoln,” the Steven Spielberg film that was nominated for 12 Academy Awards in 2012, was loosely based on Kearns’ biography of the 16th U.S. president.

Jeff MacNelly, three time Pulitzer-Prize winning editorial cartoonist and creator of  the popular comic strip “Shoe,” and Jack Ohman, 2016 Pulitzer Prize-winning editorial cartoonist.

World-renowned management consultants/authors Tom Peters and Alan Weiss. Peters, who has been called “the Red Bull of management thinkers,” is best known for “In Search of Excellence.” Weiss’s consulting firm, Summit Consulting Group, Inc., has attracted clients such as Merck, Hewlett-Packard, Mercedes-Benz, The Federal Reserve, The New York Times Corporation, and more than 500 other leading organizations.

National political figures such as New York City Mayor Ed Koch and Republican operative Lee Atwater, the man largely responsible for the GOP’s “Southern Strategy.”

Cristiana Chamorro, noted journalist and daughter of former Nicaraguan President Violeta Chamorro.

Juan Francisco Ealy Ortiz, owner-publisher of Mexico City’s largest daily Newspaper, El Universal.

In addition, prominent university presidents and faculty, leading business executives, entrepreneurs, and scores of top newspaper editors and business-side executives flowed through the API building’s magnificent entry foyer. They engaged seminar and conference attendees in candid conversation and vigorous debate about organizational leadership, and contemporary trends and issues in the world of journalism, and beyond.

Tens of thousands of program attendees participated in seminars that lasted three to 14 days. When they departed Reston, they left behind millions of dollars spent for hotels, meals, entertainment, and other expenses. Returning home, they shared stories of a special planned community tucked into the rolling hills of Northern Virginia. A Place Called Reston.

Clearly, the Breuer building has brought countless blessings to the Reston community. It is only right that the city now returns the favor by ensuring that the remarkable structure stands for many more decades. That would be a declaration that Reston appropriately honors its past, embraces its future, and clearly understands how to marry the two for the good of its citizens.

 

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