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Robert E. Simon dies; founded planned community of Reston, Va.

In a July 20, 1994, file photo, Robert

In a July 20, 1994, file photo, Robert E. Simon Jr., founder of Reston, Va., looks out from the Heron House in Reston. Photo Credit: AP / Nancy Andrews

Robert E. Simon Jr., a former Long Islander whose planned community of Reston, Virginia, became home to almost 60,000 people in the suburbs of Washington, has died. He was 101.

He died Sept. 21 at his home in Reston, the Reston Association said on its website. No cause was given.

Simon invested about $12 million into 6,750 acres of farmland and designed what he hoped would be a template for modern living. The first homes in Reston were occupied in December 1964.

The town was designed as a high-density suburb arranged around European-style piazzas and interspersed with New York-style urban parkland. Schools and businesses were part of the plan for an all-inclusive community designed for full racial integration, a rarity at the time.

"The way people live is at least as important to them as where they live," Simon said in 1967, according to an article in the Saturday Evening Post.

The Reston plan remained largely intact through the decades. In 2014, Reston -- its name derived from Simon's initials -- celebrated its 50th anniversary and was connected, for the first time, to Washington's Metro system.

After living on Long Island for 25 years, Simon returned to Reston in 1993 and resumed his role of community visionary.

Robert Edward Simon Jr. was born on April 10, 1914, in New York, according to his biography at the Reston Planned Community Archives. His father was one of the top real estate investors in New York, and owned and operated Carnegie Hall. His mother was the former Elsa Weil.

Simon said he found life in Reston to be better than elsewhere.

"When I lived on Long Island, if I wanted to see a friend, I had to make a date. It was a drive," he said in 2004, according to The Washington Post. "I drop down in the elevator, and I'm there in Lake Anne Plaza. I've got six restaurants, a lawyer, a dry cleaner, a pharmacist, a used-book store and a bank. It's all here. Right here. And friends, the most important thing."

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