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Fairfax, You're Looking Good

Washington DC

Don't look Fairfax (the county), but Fairfax (the city) may just be the next big thing. Vacant storefronts and drab older properties are becoming a thing of the past. Last week, we checked things out in person.

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Just a six-and-a-half square mile dot in the middle of the behemoth Fairfax County, businesses and retailers have not been interested. A few empty big-box stores and outdated garden apartments were thorns in the side of Mayor Scott Silverthorne (left), whom we snapped with Economic Development Authority chair John Sabo. But things are about to change, as home improvement cave Lowe’s and discount grocer Aldi fill up those empty stores and some apartment projects get redevelopment approval. Plus, there’s a $4M park that'll go in the middle of downtown.

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Scott, speaking at the Aldi opening (it took over an Office Depot), calls it a renaissance. Aldi is a destination retailer and could guide shoppers to other Fairfax shops. Scott was involved in selling Fairfax to Lowe's (a former Kmart) and says he’d like to see more of the city’s aging shopping centers get replaced by mini town centers. (He’s not a fan of refacing.) The city is also starting a downtown revitalization plan with GMU, whose main campus is in Fairfax. Scott would also like to see more infill development where there are empty parking lots. (They should also tell Criss Angel to stop making everyone's car disappear.)

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The city hasn’t seen any new apartments since ’86; now, 3,000 units are in the works for the next two to three years. (It currently has 9,000 homes.) Scott says he'll be cautious about approvals, since the community doesn’t want too many apartments. Combined Properties will redevelop 108k SF at Fairfax Circle that includes 400 multifamily apartments and 88k SF of retail, including a Harris Teeter. Courtland Homes was approved to redevelop Layton Hall Apartments, increasing the 110-unit garden apartment complex to 360. Oak Knolls Apartments will redevelop from 110 apartments to 160, including 59 townhomes. The city also developed its first affordable housing policy, requiring developers to set aside 5% to 12% of units for affordable.