For a small city, Richmond is rich in culture, from its blossoming art and music scenes to its booming craft beer scene. Its central location also puts it only hours away from most of the biggest cities on the east coast. There’s a good reason locals swear that it can’t be beat.
That said, it has a few drawbacks that are important to consider when making the decision to move. You need to be aware of what you’re in for.
The Controversial History
#Breaking – @GovernorVA announces emergency safety regulations at Robert E. Lee Monument in Richmond.
Rallies capped at 500 people.
Rules in effect for 18 months @WUSA9 #RVA pic.twitter.com/ltcZXv3WE0
— Mike Valerio (@MikevWUSA) November 20, 2017
This is really the elephant in the room. Everyone knows Richmond was the capital of the Confederacy, and locals in particular are never far from this ambivalent chapter in the city’s history. Statues of Confederate generals and politicians dot the city’s major thoroughfares, and in light of recent political events, opinions have become polarized. Some want the statues gone and buildings named after the same figures renamed; others are dead set against any changes. It seems the citizens of Richmond will be fighting about this issue for some time to come, and any new arrivals are going to be expected to pick a side.
Schools and Taxes
— Times-Dispatch (@RTDNEWS) August 24, 2016
Richmond’s public schools are severely underfunded; many are getting by with outdated textbooks and equipment while sorely needed repairs are delayed as long as possible. Using schools as a rationale, City Council recently passed an increase in tax on prepared foods, which now brings the total sales tax on any local restaurant tab to 12.8%.
However, in light of Richmond-based corporation Altria’s position as a leading manufacturer of tobacco products, they were unwilling to pass a corresponding tax increase on cigarettes. Meanwhile, the tax increase on prepared foods is still not projected to cover the school budget shortfall.
Where the weather is concerned, Richmond is a city of extremes. As befits a Southern city on the east coast, summers are hot — but as any local will tell you, it’s not the heat, it’s the humidity. Richmond’s relative humidity has an annual average of 70% — and that number rises to 75% in July. The city’s lush greenery also makes it an incredibly difficult place to live in the spring if you suffer from allergies; Richmond was ranked in the top 10 worst cities to live with allergies in 2014.
While the winters are often mild, the city is by no means immune from severe snowstorms. Even if only one hits, the city’s prone to exceeding its minuscule snow removal budget — as it did in 2017, after only 7 inches of snowfall.
— WTVR CBS 6 Richmond (@CBS6) March 24, 2018
Even when snow isn’t making streets impassable, local drivers have their share of headaches to cope with. Potholes have been a major issue in the city for years, and while Mayor Stoney has made their cleanup a priority since his election in 2016, the patchily paved streets of the city are still prone to more-than-occasional “hubcap cemeteries.”
Richmond has nothing on Northern Virginia where tolls and congestion are concerned, but anyone living south of the city will need to budget either several dollars in tolls or an extra hour of commute time, and traffic on the city’s two main highways, I-95 and I-64, is bad and getting worse
Public transit within Richmond is limited to GRTC bus service, which is improving but continues to have big holes in coverage. Unless you really luck out, you’re going to need a car. And while finding a place to park your car isn’t really a problem in the suburbs, where big parking lots are the norm, within the city, curbside spaces are at a premium.
If you live or work downtown, attend college at VCU, or find a place in desirable neighborhoods like The Fan and Jackson Ward, you’ll need a plan for where you’ll put your car during the day, which may cost hundreds of dollars a year between garage fees and neighborhood parking passes.