NoVa's story is one of phenomenal expansion, fueled by a wide variety of employment opportunities. Fairfax County's population has increased by more than 10% in the last decade, including an emergent new-South diversity that has doubled the Hispanic population. The benefits of growth include compelling retail and cultural opportunities throughout the area; for example, the Angelika Film Center Mosaic in Fairfax's Merrifield neighborhood is part of a complex that includes an Anthropologie, a health food store, a Target, and Huong Que ("Four Sisters") restaurant. The drawback has been ubiquitous construction and gridlocked roads, symbolized by the mixing bowl of the 95/395/495 interchange near Springfield, which was notorious until a successful 2007 makeover.
Developers are newly mindful of the need for smart growth. They start with locus points for business and then add compact walkable stretches that integrate residential needs into the consumer landscape. This goes beyond a few chain restaurants; NoVa's residents crave choices competitive with DC retail, hence the revitalization of Merrifield and the Village at Shirlington. One of the best new examples of smart growth is Arlington's Rosslyn-Ballston corridor, which corresponds with three miles of stops along the Metro's Orange Line. Though the Clarendon and Courthouse epicenter has long sustained a healthy nightlife, the endpoints of Rosslyn and Ballston are only beginning to come into their own. Rosslyn, which hosts major corporate headquarters such as The Boeing Company, is ready to capitalize on scenic proximity to Washington-- accessible via metro, Circulator bus, or biking over the Key Bridge--without sacrificing neighborhood appeal. Their active Business Improvement District runs a noted outdoor jazz festival in Gateway Park every September, fosters a farmer's market, and is working to construct an observation deck that will offer 360-degree views across the Potomac River. Rosslyn Spectrum Theater, operated by the Arlington County Government, hosts five film festivals a year; other highlights include Michael Landrum's Ray's to the Third (over a dozen varieties of steak frites) and Artisphere, a multimillion-dollar arts center that includes three galleries and a 4,000-square-foot ballroom for concerts.
In other areas, critical transformation comes in the form of mass transport options; the lesser the parking lots, the greater the community. The Dulles Corridor Metro Project, also known as the Silver Line, will extend the Metro system by 34 stops in Arlington, Fairfax, and Reston (Phase One, to be completed in 2014), then Loudon and the Dulles International Airport (Phase Two, slated for 2018). Anticipation is changing the profile of Tysons Corner, an "edge city" between McLean and Vienna once known as a sterile hive of shops and offices. Tysons is becoming a viable live/work space, with 200,000 new jobs and 100,000 new residents on the horizon as well as an influx of grocery stores, health care providers, and other connecting tissue of a healthy neighborhood.
Sometimes the soil itself needs a second chance. For many decades, Alexandria's Potomac Yards was one of the busiest rail yards in the country. The contaminated grounds languished in the latter half of the 1900s until federal "Superfund" monies brought it back to life (as, among other things, a new home for Environmental Protection Agency's offices). Urban planners soon recognized the location's strategic advantages in terms of proximity to the water, Arlington, and National Airport. Those in adjacent Crystal City—an underground community, dominated by government contracting work--saw a chance to get some fresh air. Today, Potomac Yard hosts a major shopping hub, condominiums, an amphitheater, and a conference hotel; a proposed 21-acre linear park will include water-play areas for children and athletic courts. Capping off its successful rehabilitation from industrial to residential, the neighborhood hopes to add a Potomac Yard metro rail station to the Yellow and Blue lines by 2016.