News and notes from Reston (tm).

Monday, August 1, 2011

Flashback Monday: Reston, the Satellite City


This fancy map shows the growth of the Washington D.C. suburbs by 2000, as envisioned by the National Capital Planning Commission and the National Capital Regional Planning Council for the Washington Area back in the 1960s. And you can see how prescient it was, given that if you drive west of Reston, you're soon enveloped by virgin forest that extends all the way to the West Virginia line. Right?

Well, maybe not. But back in the 1960s, these optimistic planners labelled Reston as a "Satellite City," calling it an anecdote antidote to endless suburban sprawl rather than predicting its short-lived future as home of the International Space Station project. What they wrote was pretty much right on the money:
Unplanned, uncontrolled growth has blurred the boundary between city and country, while people search in vain for open space, convenient recreation and natural beauty.

The malady of urban sprawl -- gas stations, hot dog stands, and dreary rows of "look-alike" houses -- has created an all too familiar blight on the American landscape,

These problems confront Washington, D.C. Its area population will jump from two million to five million by the year 2000. Where will these people live? What can be done to preserve the surrounding countryside and woodlands?
We'd actually take a couple of "hot dog stands" over cupcakeries, but otherwise this was dead on. Of course, what the planners couldn't have foreseen is that instead of "satellite cities" -- places that integrated housing, business, and midscale retail commercial space -- developers instead focused on "edge cities," places with houses, the odd grocery store, and little else (cough cough Ashburn). They were abetted by zoning laws that actually made it tougher to build integrated suburbs (even our beloved Fake Downtown Gritty Urban Core had to privatize its road system because tall buildings close to sidewalks and streets ran afoul of county building codes that favored midsized office parks surrounded by acres of parking -- an oversight that was literally just fixed in the last two years). We'd say it was no way to run a railroad, but MWAA now owns the exclusive rights to that phrase forever, the end.


  1. I think you mean "antidote" instead of "anecdote".

  2. Interesting how in the 1960s it appears the growth would mostly occur along the Columbia Pike (US-29) corridor in eastern Montgomery Co. while Tysons Corner and the I-270 corridor appear much less developed.

    Who knows what the thought was on Manassas...

  3. I think that was s'posed ta be "anticdote."

  4. Peasant From Less Sought After South RestonAugust 1, 2011 at 7:44 PM

    It looks like The Blob That Ate Northern Virginia...mwaa hah hah hah! Or, with respect to our Silver Line overseers/extortionists, should that be MWAAA hah hah hah?


(If you don't see comments for some reason, click here).