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What I’ve Learned: Pioneer of the Suburbs
Comments () | Published November 1, 2009

But you call Rouse “the greatest of the great.” Why?

After Columbia, Jim did all sorts of great development for low-income people. Really wonderful stuff.

One day, many years ago, I got a call from a friend of mine, an architect. He said, “I just got approval to do the Boston waterfront, and my developer’s finked out on me. You’ve gotta do it.” I turned him over to Jim Rouse. At that time, I had lost confidence in my ability to do a major project. After getting fired, it was a little difficult to think I could take that on.

Andrés Duany, who created Kentlands, is seen as the founding father of “new urbanism.”

Duany’s an absolutely fantastic publicist. That’s been his contribution—to publicize the idea of mixed uses. Otherwise, he hasn’t contributed anything. He claims to have invented most of this stuff. But new urbanism is neither new nor urban. So he should go down in history as a great publicist rather than as a great planner.

How should Tysons Corner and Reston plan for the arrival of Metro?

At Tysons, I think they should build four or five town centers rather than trying to take the 1,700 acres and make it homogeneous. They could do some lovely small developments. A whole community could fit on 50 or 100 acres, with a plaza, retail, and residential and commercial development.

At the Wiehle Avenue stop planned for Reston, I’m interested in having them develop over the Dulles Toll Road. If they don’t put the foundations in now for air rights, they’re going to be very difficult to get later. We have some wonderful renderings of what could happen with air rights—office buildings, apartments, gardens.

What’s the future for Reston?

They say the Washington area could get 2 million more people in the next few years. We’re going to get our share in Reston.

The “village centers” at South Lakes, Hunters Woods, and Tall Oaks could be torn down and proper village centers built with dense residential. That could absorb a lot of the population.

I’ve been working on revitalization for Lake Anne Plaza for more than five years. The market is such that no developer’s going to come along right now. But the plan would bring in a number of residential units—townhouses and apartments—behind the plaza. That’ll make a big difference. It could be all high-rises. It could be a combination of low-rise and high-rise. It could include townhouses. I know two developers who we’ll be hearing from when the market gets a little better.

Are your original guiding principles for Reston obsolete?

No, but that doesn’t mean they’re all going to happen. It’s difficult to overcome the culture that we live in. It’s a culture where a state-of-the-art bathroom and kitchen are what one needs, plus enough square footage to show everyone that one could afford it. We’ve gone a couple centuries without understanding community. It’s too bad that it’s so hard to communicate what pleasure one gets from living with one’s fellow human being.

Why did you move back to Washington?

I had been in touch with Reston all the way along. They had me down to cut ribbons and such. I had relatives here. When I retired, I called ahead to Heron House to check the size of the elevator. I wanted to make sure my grand piano would fit.

I don’t miss New York. We have everything here—music, art, theater, and of course community. If I were really loaded, I still don’t think I’d want to get a palace in New York and chauffeur-driven cars. I like this kind of place.

What’s the secret to a long life?

I’m often asked that, and I always answer: “One martini every evening.”

This article first appeared in the November 2009 issue of The Washingtonian. For more articles from that issue, click here


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