Old Town Fairfax, VA. Photo by Brandon Wu via Flickr.
City Councilmember Michael DeMarco may just be in his first term of elected office, but he has a strong vision for the future of the City of Fairfax, VA.
As the previous Chair of the city’s Economic Development Authority, DeMarco is focused on smart growth and development for his city of 6.3 square miles and just under 25,000 residents. Fairfax is located in Northern Virginia and part of the growing greater Washington, DC metro region. “It’s not a question of when we will grow,” says DeMarco. “It’s a question of how we will grow.”
A suburban community comprised largely of single-family homes, DeMarco believes the future of Fairfax City lies in diversification. “We’re an aging demographic,” says DeMarco. “To attract a younger demographic and attract more small and medium-size businesses we need to think about smart growth principles.”
With great parks and recreational opportunities, the City of Fairfax has a good foundation on which to build an attractive community for younger incoming residents. In fact, the city won the National Gold Medal Award from the American Academy for Park and Recreation Administration and the National Recreation and Park Association for its diverse network of public parks and open space.
Fairfax has a rich historical center in its Old Town area, which is a registered National and State Historic District. The City has worked to encourage development here, particularly in Old Town Plaza, a mixed-use center that includes office space, retail, and restaurants.
Creating more affordable housing stock is one area in which the City is working to improve. To attract new, and younger residents to Fairfax, city leaders know they’ll have to create more options for where and how to live. “Our own first responders or teachers can’t necessarily even afford to live here,” says DeMarco. “If we want to create a truly great place, we have to change that.”
DeMarco also thinks City leaders need to focus on regional mass transit solutions—particularly to address issues of accessibility and traffic congestion—if they are serious about remaining vibrant and attracting business investment. “Addressing traffic must be a regional solution,” he says. “We need more mass transit options along our major corridors, including expanding metro and bus rapid transit.”
“When people think of sustainability they often think of environmental sustainability,” says DeMarco. “But when I talk about sustainability and smart growth, I mean the ability of my community to sustain itself in our changing world; the ability to compete and to grow. I’m working to change the dialogue.”