The city derives its name from Thomas Fairfax, 6th Lord Fairfax of Cameron, who was awarded 5,000,000 acres of land in northern Virginia by King Charles. Old Town Fairfax has undergone an extensive redevelopment, which began in 2005. The redevelopment added a new City of Fairfax Regional Library, more than 45,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space, more than 70,000 square feet of office condominiums, and 85 upscale residential condominium units. In May 2009, Fairfax was rated as No. 3 in the “Top 25 Places to Live Well” by Forbes Magazine. Forbes commended Fairfax for its strong public school system, high median salary, and a rate of sole proprietors per capita that ranks it in the top 1 percent nationwide. According to the magazine, “These factors are increasingly important in a recession. When businesses and jobs retract, as they have nationwide, municipalities with strong environments for start-ups, and those that offer attractive amenities, are better suited to recover from economic downtimes, as there are more business activity filling the void.”
The public schools in the City of Fairfax are owned by the city, but administered by the Fairfax County Public Schools system under contractual agreement with Fairfax County. U.S. News & World Report often ranks Fairfax County schools among the best in the country. City of Fairfax schools are Fairfax High School, Lanier Middle School, Daniels Run Elementary School, Providence Elementary School, and Fairfax Academy. George Mason University, the largest university in the Commonwealth of Virginia, is located just to the south of the Fairfax city limits. Mason is most known for its programs in economics, law, creative writing, computer science, and business. In recent years, George Mason faculty have twice won the Nobel Prize in Economics.