Richmond has a fascinating history of its own. Founded in 1737, it is one of America’s most tenured cities and played critical roles in both the Revolutionary and Civil Wars. But you’re not here for a history lesson, we know. You want to hear about Richmond in the here and now. So here are a few facts of life you should know about the city in the 21st century:
A History Aficionado’s Heaven: Outsiders continue to flock to the city to visit Richmond National Battlefield Park and Hollywood Cemetery, among other historic locations. Be prepared: Richmond is a hotbed for Civil War reenactments, so if you’re sitting on your favorite barstool in Shockoe Botton one night and you see a blood-stained Johnny Reb stumbling by, you’re not hallucinating or seeing a ghost. It’s just a “regular” guy who’s pretending to be wounded in action or dying of dysentery in 1864.
Navigating the City: The most convenient way to maneuver throughout the city is (big surprise alert!) via your own vehicle. Traffic is rarely backed up in Richmond and parking spaces are easy enough to find, so if you have your own gas-guzzler, you’re in good shape. If not, you can always take the GRTC city buses that service the area, but be sure to have either exact change or a nifty little GRTC Go Card (available everywhere anything at all is sold…).
Day… Richmond residents who like to have their fun under the sun won’t be disappointed. Popular daytime recreational haunts include Belle Isle on the James River, Monument Avenue, and Maymont Park (one of the country’s most aesthetic urban parks). Numerous other parks and museums (including the Edgar Allen Poe Museum) are spread throughout the city as well.
And Night: If a musical genre exists, there’s a live band in Richmond playing it right now. Throughout Shockoe Bottom, the downtown area, and the Fan District, music junkies will find an endless stream of live music venues with bands exploring every genre from punk, funk, and indie to bluegrass, hip hop, and – sorry to say it – disco. Never fear, techno-tronic enthusiasts: The Shockoe Bottom ‘hood also serves up its fair share of pulse-pounding club music, so don’t forget to pack your glittery shirts and glow sticks.
People have been settling in Richmond successfully for roughly 275 years, and guess what? You can, too! Just a few caveats to consider before signing on that dotted line:
Richmond-ers can be choosers: Richmond is one of those rare cities in Virginia where renters outnumber buyers (by more than seven percent in this case). So be choosy and don’t settle on a pad until you’re sure it’s exactly what your little heart desires.
Take careful inventory: When you move-in, chances are your apartment manager will give you a checklist so you can note anything that isn’t completely perfect in your new pad. Don’t blow this off! Apartments tend to turn over very quickly in Richmond, and property managers don’t always have the chance to examine every last nook and cranny of vacant units for blemishes. You don’t want to get blamed – or worse, lose your deposit – for something that happened before your time.
Bring the basics: Of course, you’ll need I.D., proof of income, a list of previous landlords, and banking info to rent at most Richmond properties. Or, you’ll need a co-signer.
It’s not old, it’s distinguished … Roughly 75 percent of buildings in Richmond, including rental properties, were built prior to 1970, so hopefully you appreciate a certain degree of antiquity in your living quarters.
So which neighborhood in Richmond is right for you? You have your choice of 50-plus distinct ‘hoods to pick from, including:
Downtown: The downtown area, especially the Monroe Ward and Shockoe Slip areas, are ideal for those who want to be in the hub of the city’s commerce and culture (average apartment cost is around $900). The historical neighborhood of Jackson Ward is also downtown and has some rental houses available in the $1200 range.
Shockoe Bottom: The epicenter of Richmond’s nightlife is Shockoe Bottom, on the banks of the James River. Just be prepared to spend close to a grand for a 1 BR and $1300-plus for a multi-room unit.
Tobacco Row: Remember those “eclectic” living spaces we promised? We were talking about Tobacco Row, whose clusters of former tobacco factories have been transformed into chic, spacious lofts and condos. Riverside rentals are currently available in the $700 range for the smallest units (600 square feet), while the more roomy digs (1100-plus square feet) will cost you close to $1200.
Well, then, liberty it is! The cost of living in Richmond is nearly 9 percent higher than the national average, but fortunately, the average rental unit is hovering around only $850, and move-in specials pop up frequently.
Welcome to Richmond, and happy hunting!