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‘Reston at 50’ Studied

GMU symposium explores the planning and diversity of area.

Reston is a city with a past - a past that George Mason University students are discovering.

Students - from undergraduates to doctoral candidates, presented their findings about Reston in time for the community’s 50th anniversary Monday at Hunter Mill Community Center.

The symposium, titled “Reston at 50: Looking Back at Forward Thinking,” covered diversity, preservation, scholarship and planning to an audience of more than 50 community members. Director of African and African-American Studies Dr. Wendi Manuel-Scott moderated the event.

“Many early residents settled into Reston because of the ideals of the community,” said Director of the School of Art Dr. Harold Linton during his talk about how Reston’s plan developed and some of the architecture the community centers were inspired from.

His student, Lindsey Bestebreurtje, is a university doctoral candidate who discussed Reston’s policies for integration and diversity in addition to the rise and fall of suburban appeal.

Right before Reston went from cattle pasture to community, federal policies made it easier for blue-collar workers to own a home. However, that did not mean these homes were available to people of all races.

“These restrictive covenants only allowed homes to be sold to Caucasians,” she said.

Reston was one of the few places in Virginia to allow people outside of the Caucasian race to buy homes at the time.

Four undergraduate students who have undertaken research in the Planned Community Archives about Reston, discussed their findings - some which were very specific, obscure information - to the audience.

The students, in order of presentation were Michael Fijalka, Mark Wisinger, Drake Eidson and DeNike Williams.

Wisinger found that a zoning request from Jack-in-the-Box turned into a conflict when Restonians on the board voiced that the fast food restaurant did not follow the vision created by founder Robert Simon. The restaurant eventually became a McDonalds, he said, then a Japanese restaurant.

The symposium caused many residents to reminisce why they chose to live in their community.

Janet Cochran, Reston, came to the symposium because she is on the university advisory board for GMU.

“I lived in Reston since 1972,” she said. “When I moved here, the population was 12,000. Now it’s 60,000. That’s a huge difference.”