What is there to know about moving to and living in Richmond, Virginia?
June 24, 2020 12:12 PM   Subscribe

Considering a move from Brooklyn to Richmond, Virginia! Tell me everything I need to know!

This is a long one, but a little about me first. I'm a 37 year old cis white hetero single woman. I'm originally from NC and lived there until 2009 so I'm no stranger to the south. I've been working in New York and living in Brooklyn since then, but all this corona virus stuff is making me reconsider where I want to live out middle-age (when I get there? am I already there?). I've been working as a video producer for a large global ad agency and would like to continue that work, but just like, not working SO HARD all the time and still not being able to afford to do the things I want outside of work (mainly travel and volunteering). I have only been to Richmond for one day ever like 15 years ago, so I don't have a ton of knowledge of it other than second-hand from people that say it’s awesome.

Why I am thinking of moving there, based on assumptions from people I've spoken to and research I've done so far (feel free to correct me if my assumptions are wrong):

-Existence of ad agencies and production companies where I could possibly work (Martin, Arts & Letters, etc)
-Existence of arts/music scene
-Pretty architecture
-Affordable rentals (looking at 1br’s for $1200 and under)
-Proximity to both water and mountains as well as family and friends in NC

Preliminary questions:

-What neighborhood would I want to live in? I would like to be walkable to restaurants/bookstores/grocery stores/boutiques/galleries and reasonably central. If you are familiar with Brooklyn at all, I currently live next to Fort Greene, which is the perfect neighborhood in my opinion. I like Fort Greene bc it’s a lively social area without being a raucous party spot for people in their 20s. I don’t mind being where there are families, but I’d hope for young families who are active in their neighborhood. I would like for the neighborhood to be pretty in some regard; I love old houses and architecture--I don’t want to live on a block that is just drab apartment complexes and parking lots. Trees and a green park area would be nice too.

-How’s the political vibe? I know it’s a more liberal area than other parts of the state, but as someone who grew up in Asheville, spent nine years in Chapel Hill and the last eleven in New York, I have definitely existed in a liberal bubble my whole life, and I’m very far left and pretty outspoken about it, and try to participate in action when I can. I know activists just pulled down the Lee statue, but should I expect rude comments or looks if I date a person of color or hang out with gender non-conforming people or get dinner out with gay friends? If so, how does one best avoid those people? I’m not the kind to passively just ignore this kind of behavior. I don’t want to live next to someone who has a confederate flag in their window.

-What sources do you use to find out about what’s going on locally? Arts events, political events, music events, etc? Is there a good solid independent weekly or a good frequently updated website where I can see what’s going on? For reference, in Brooklyn I check out Gothamist for local bite-sized news, Brooklyn Based for events, Oh My Rockness for music, Hyperallergic for art (among others).

-Are there good resources for in-the-know listings for rentals and jobs? Of course I’m looking at zillow and trulia and craigslist for rentals and linkedin and glassdoor for jobs (outside of already applying to companies I already am familiar with). For example, Streeteasy and Stephanie Diamond’s Listings Project is a great place to find NY-specific rentals. Though I don’t have a NY-equivalent for jobs. Just wondering if there are resources that only locals know about and use. I’m not currently interested in buying, just renting for for now.

-Will I have a social life? I'm reasonably independent and introverted, but I'm a social introvert. I enjoy a small but strong circle of friends and I would like to try to date some as well, though that isn't a priority (nor is having children). Is it an insular, clique-y town? Will I wander around on the outside for years until someone decides to let me into their group? Do single people in their 30s and 40s exist and are they easy to find--do people use the apps? I'm not super gregarious, and I have kind of a dark sense of humor, so I find things like meet-ups to be my worst nightmare as I'm not great at polite small talk. But I get along well with people one-on-one for the most part and in NY I found my friends pretty organically through mutual friends over time.

I understand that yes, NY has a bajillion more people and maybe has more resources like the ones I’ve listed and that I can’t necessarily expect the same from Richmond, but just shooting in the dark in case I hit something, as I have no one on the ground there to really hit up for advice.

I’d appreciate any other suggestions, recommendations, leads, literally anything! I’m in no rush to leave New York, very unlikely before next year. I’m just right now starting to scope out my options and would love any guidance, thanks!
posted by greta simone to Travel & Transportation around Richmond, VA (16 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: I should probably have also mentioned I'm not big into sporty stuff or beer culture, but I accept that that's just part of life and won't eschew it entirely.
posted by greta simone at 12:17 PM on June 24, 2020

Just a note, I haven't spent a ton of recent time in Richmond but I went to college in VA, lived in NC and now live in Brooklyn (and am 37 as well) so have some thoughts.

So, you're from NC-- the vibe is like a more historic, larger and less progressive version of Durham, with much more historic housing stock. Historical neighborhoods to look into have been Carytown and The Fan, but they maybe for folks in the late 20s.

One thing you'll note when you move out of NYC to these smaller cities: most transplanted (which in my experience is who you become friends with) people in their 30s move out to the burbs, but the dearth of them makes it much more likely to become friends with those that stay behind. You have to be fairly aggressive in reaching out to them, or inviting their social graces more than you're used to. It's likely, the neighborhoods you will want to live in will be populated with young-mid 20s folks.
posted by sandmanwv at 12:27 PM on June 24, 2020 [1 favorite]

You might check out r/rva, and there's a "Moving" button over on the right hand sidebar which will filter some questions similar to yours.
posted by smcameron at 1:01 PM on June 24, 2020 [1 favorite]

A good friend of mine who lives in Richmond keeps posting videos he's taken of cops firing tear gas, flash bangs, etc. into crowds of peaceful protesters around where he lives. Here's a current article. Cops are even worse there than in many places and racial tensions there are even higher than many other places (that part is not a new thing; unsure about the cops being worse). Just something to keep in mind as I don't see it in your lists. I'd certainly consider it a con. No, honestly, from the vibe I get from my friend, I simply wouldn't move there at this time.

My friend moved there years ago in great part for the arts scene. He regrets doing so and wishes he had the money to move out. He feels unsafe and has for a while , even before coronavirus and before the riots. The crime rate in Richmond is astronomical. I'm too lazy at the moment to look up stats, but really, one of the highest in the nation per capita.

I don’t want to live next to someone who has a confederate flag in their window.

That still exists there. It is not uncommon.
posted by nirblegee at 1:40 PM on June 24, 2020 [1 favorite]

Ok here are some crime stats. Eek.
posted by nirblegee at 1:46 PM on June 24, 2020

Richmonder here (I live in the city, on the north side.)

What neighborhood: For the vibe you're looking for, I'd suggest The Fan, Fulton, Church Hill or Scott's Addition.

Political vibe: In the city, pretty liberal.

Local news: There's a free "alt weekly" (not really alt, but it's not the Times-Dispatch) called Style. The /rva subreddit has already been mentioned. Depending on where you settle, there are some neighborhood-focused web sites, too.

Rentals and jobs I know less about, so I'd defer to others.

Social life: Hard to say in COVID times, but I used to visit Fort Greene and you sound cool, so I'll say yes.

Feel free to memail me with questions. I was born in New York, but I've spent most of my life in Richmond.
posted by emelenjr at 1:48 PM on June 24, 2020 [3 favorites]

If you'd like a liberal, progressive, walkable, beautiful neighborhood in Richmond, then the Fan (upper fan west of Meadow Street specifically to gear toward working professionals and families vs. college students), The Museum District, or maybe Byrd Park would be good to look into.

I've found my most recent 3 apartments in the Fan on Craigslist. It's good to look for individual landlords/owners here--lots of rental conglomerates own big buildings in these neighborhoods, and their reputations vary a lot by the unit.

The real estate market has been insane here over the past 5 years. Areas outside the city are gentrifying and growing. I personally like the Lakeside area for the neighborhood feel, parks, and new restaurants coming in, but there are more Don't Tread on Me license plates and a few confederate flags in the neighborhood, especially compared with the Fan. The surrounding counties can lean more conservative--Hanover County, north of Richmond, is very conservative and has 2 schools named after confederate soldiers.

I think Richmond is a very liveable city. Great food, good museums, amazing parks, and nice libraries. We also have the James River Park System, with kayaking, hiking, cycling, and paddleboarding all in the city. Overall, people are friendly. There are volunteer opportunities, art events and festivals, and reddit meetups to help with the social scene. The beer and sports culture is present here (we have like 36 breweries), but there is always something to do that's not part of that culture.
posted by shortyJBot at 1:59 PM on June 24, 2020 [1 favorite]

re: Beaches and Mountains

90 minutes to Shenandoah National Park / 90 minutes to Buckroe Beach on the Chesapeake, which avoids the VA Beach madness. If you want to cross the tunnel/bridge to VA Beach add 20-90 minutes, depending on traffic.

I Iive in the northern suburbs but made the 20-minute drive into town frequently for restaurants, bars, ballgames, etc. in the before times.
posted by COD at 2:32 PM on June 24, 2020

Be aware that some of the affordable housing in the hip areas is very old and will have poor insulation and dodgy and unreliable electrical work.

Downtown was desolate 20 years ago with about 1/3 of the storefronts empty and another 1/3 stores that were going out of business. It revitalized with gentrification but I don't know how well it will survive the economic downturn.

You'll find plenty of people on the usual dating apps but don't expect quite as much action as NYC.

Racial issues are not good. The parts you'd want to live in are mostly fine but the surrounding area is pretty bad. There's a lot of systemic poverty that's tied to race.

If you have friends in NC you might also consider Raleigh/Durham or Charlotte.
posted by Candleman at 2:49 PM on June 24, 2020

Since no one else has said it, Richmond is a car city, youll need one to get around. The actual downtown is small and the rest of the city is low-high density suburb effectively. Thats one big difference from Brooklyn.

There is some bus service. I tried it out when visiting, but it didnt seem it was used much, although i havent tried the rapid transit line. Everyone uber/lyfted to get around.

Scott's addition is the craft brewery district, theres 10+ within a 10 minute walk.
posted by TheAdamist at 2:53 PM on June 24, 2020 [1 favorite]

I have never lived there but I have family and have been many many times. I have lived in mid-size cities but not like, a big city like NYC.

Richmond is a college town so there’s a fun arts scene, several good restaurants, a great local art museum, easy access to Amtrak to go up to DC or NYC ($25ish each way for DC tickets). There’s also a lot of opportunities to get involved in local arts groups, there’s local theater and opera and classical music and VCU ‘s art school.

In 2016 there was a gigantic Bernie Sanders mural down in this industrial type district with lots of cute craft beer and cider places.

You will need a car but a friend who lived down there for grad school enjoyed biking and outdoorsy activities and she met a lot of friends through local bike groups. But in many neighborhoods there aren’t even sidewalks and you literally cannot walk to anything.
posted by forkisbetter at 4:22 PM on June 24, 2020

Hey, I'm in my 30s and moved from NC to Richmond last year. I live in the Fan, within walking distance of museums and a short drive or bus ride to James River Park. I think it's a pretty neat place to live!

I was just figuring out the whole "making friends" thing when COVID hit. VCU has a big art school and that informs the feel of the city, but Richmond's not just a college town. People don't seem super active on Meetup here, so I wouldn't worry about that being the only option. Hanging out on dating apps has been a positive experience; lots of friendly and interesting people.

Politics in Richmond itself are messy and energized, a convergence of defunded public institutions, white flight and now gentrification, college kid activists, corporate interests, and all the fun of being the state capitol. The Lee Statue is still alive and well and enmeshed in legal battles, but activists have pulled down several Confederate statues and are low-key occupying Lee Circle. We have many grassroots progressive organizations; I just joined Richmond for All.

Style Weekly is good. Another indie publication is RVA Magazine. Our public radio station, VPM, has solid local news coverage.

To address a couple points made by other commenters: Richmond's "crime problem" is similar to other high-poverty cities. Property crime is a thing, but so far I haven't had any experiences that made me feel unsafe. I feel comfortable walking alone in the Fan/Museum District/Carytown after dark and see folks walking their dogs late at night.

Richmond is a car city, but walking is pleasant in higher-rent neighborhoods; there are trees, parks, local shopping districts, interesting architecture. Before COVID I commuted on our cute little rapid-transit bus, the Pulse. It's very new and still a work in progress, but it made public transit a lot more usable.

Feel free to memail me if you have more questions!
posted by toastedcheese at 6:07 PM on June 24, 2020 [2 favorites]

Is it terribly unhelpful to ask if Raleigh or Durham is an option? I lived in western NC and Chapel Hill for many years and a few years ago was looking at moving back to that area. Put aside any ideas you have about them from undergrad days and take a look if they’re options. I bet you have people in both cities.
posted by bluedaisy at 8:43 PM on June 24, 2020 [1 favorite]

I wouldn't necessarily say it's more liberal than most of Virginia. I mean, it's more liberal than parts of Virginia, but parts of Virginia are run by people who deeply miss Jim Crow. Parts of the Richmond area still think segregation was the right idea.

Be prepared for businesses whose logos are thinly disguised flags and whose initials are CSA. Race is a factor in hiring and promotions. It's not really escapable.
posted by Ahniya at 9:21 PM on June 24, 2020 [2 favorites]

Mentioning the crime statistics in Richmond reminded me that, in the last decade or so, I’ve been the victim of a property crime twice. Years ago, when I lived within sight of a giant statue of Robert E. Lee that you may have read about in the news, somebody stole my car, took it for a joyride and ditched it on the other side of the river. Last year, somebody broke into our house and stole some jewelry and prescription medication. Yet I can’t say that I feel unsafe living here.
posted by emelenjr at 3:38 AM on June 25, 2020

Response by poster: Re: people suggesting Raleigh or Durham (or Charlotte, no way), I still regularly visit these areas and have no desire to move there.
posted by greta simone at 7:06 AM on June 25, 2020 [1 favorite]

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