I love big cities. The energy, the diversity, the public transit, the restaurants, the architecture… There’s always something new to explore. So it’s with some disappointment that I find myself living back in Richmond, the city where I grew up. Don’t get me wrong, I love this city; there’s great potential. But there’s also so much frustration for a big-city-lover like me. Just walk along Cary St. downtown and count the number of parking lots you pass between Belvidere and Tobacco Row. Or drive down 288 (because there’s no bus service out there and it’s illegal to walk or bike) and observe the continual march of the suburbs further and further from the city center. And don’t even get me started on biking around here.

I have hope, however. Urban life in Richmond is getting better: new developments, new restaurants, multiple blogs about life in the city, new politicians (OK, maybe there’s never hope in politics). In this blog I will track these and other trends towards urbanization in RVA, my hometown. And maybe together we can make a community of people who can make this a better place to live.



13 Responses to “About This Blog”

  1. Jonathan Says:

    Dear Urban Richmond?

    I came across your site by accident. While I am not a seasoned blogger, I couldn’t resist thanking you for taking the time to set up this web-site. My wife and I are not from Richmond but are both urban planners and advocates for great city life. What initially attracted us to Richmond was the location and the Museum District. We came across the neighborhood somewhat by accident. While doing an independent study of New Urbanism developments in Maryland, Virginia, and North Carolina, we were invited by friends to stop in Richmond on our way back to the University of Maryland. To our astonishment, Richmond’s Fan and Museum District had all of the elements that make a great public realm; the very topic we had been researching. When we saw how inexpensive the real-estate was (compared to D.C. or Baltimore neighborhoods) we were instantly committed to settling here. The Museum District has lived up to all our expectations. A wonderful American neighborhood.
    Now the not-so-good portion of the story. Not being from Richmond, and knowing little of its history, we were not privy to the complexities of its cultural politics when we moved here. Having visited many cities in America of Richmond’s scale, we were shocked to see how empty and desparate its downtown was when we arrived in 2002. We drove downtown one of the first evenings and discovered that the downtown was completely abandoned. We wondered how, with the Fan so alive, why the downtown was so dead. It seemed to us that Richmond had basically been sleep-walking through the 1990’s when many downtown’s had gone gang-busters from the tech boom. Where were the coffee-houses, bars, night-clubs, restaurants, arts facilities, condominiums and PEOPLE!? Over the past 5 years we’ve come to understand some of the contributing factors involved e.g. the absence of regional cooperation among locaties, ill concieved downtown revitalization schemes, and the very engrained ethnic divisions like none I’ve ever experienced.
    We learned that Richmond had spent significant time and resources on erecting the sixth-street market-place at the very same time that other cities in America were razing them. What happened? Why did the city hire James Rouse, the champion of suburbia, to create an urban landscape? (His inner-harbor plan has worked only because of the harbor as fixed public amenity)
    Thankfully, we have been happily surprised at how Richmond’s downtown has finally begun to come back. We both work downtown and have witnessed great improvement, on Broad street especially.
    We wonder why the city does not invest heavily in the public realm between Belvidere and 2nd street. We feel it is incumbant upon cities to provide incentive and support in areas where the market is moving. Sidewalks, streets, public art, and other amenities should be automatic responses in these cases. We’re encouraged to hear about the cities new immenent domain policy on blight. That will help.
    We have a six year old daughter and believe in public education. I admit, if it were not for the dramatic changes in the Canal, Broad street, condominium market, and the Mayor’s “clean house” approach to city government, we would have already moved out of Richmond and out of the region. We’re encouraged by the possibilities of an even better city in the not too distant future.

    Thanks again for your effort. I look forward to reading more.

  2. Paul Hammond Says:

    I wholeheartedly agree. We are on the cusp of a new age of urbanism. There are immense roadblocks in the way, but there is also a tremendous convergence of social and economic forces as well a nostalgia for an earlier time when neighborhoods meant friends, safety and comfort where people were invested in their community. This is an exciting time to live in the city and help lay the groundwork for the rebirth of that which we love. I share your optimism, enthusiasm as well as your frustration.

    I too have loved cities from an early age and am fulfilling my dream of living in the midst of one that is just crying out to be rediscovered. I think that is what attracts so many people here and it’s a priveledge to live among them, fight with them and join with them to make Richmond better.

  3. Melissik Says:

    One afternoon, I was in the backyard hanging the laundry when an old, tired-looking dog wandered into the yard. I could tell from his collar and well-fed belly that he had a home. But when I walked into the house, he followed me, sauntered down the hall and fell asleep in a corner. An hour later, he went to the door, and I let him out. The next day he was back. He resumed his position in the hallway and slept for an hour.
    This continued for several weeks. Curious, I pinned a note to his collar: “Every afternoon your dog comes to my house for a nap. ”
    The next day he arrived with a different note pinned to his collar: “He lives in a home with ten children – he’s trying to catch up on his sleep.”

    I cried from laughter
    Sorry, if not left a message on Rules.

  4. Jonah Says:

    Great Blog. Keep up the good work.

  5. Jason Levinn Says:

    My name is Jason Levinn and I’m a grad student studying Energy and the Environment at Duke’s Nicholas School of the Environment. I came across your blog and was really excited to see that someone is writing about these issues in Richmond, as I graduated from UR just a year ago and am looking to do a Masters Project for the City. What I am really looking to accomplish is something substantive for the City on the subject of Transit-Oriented Development. Please let me know if you would be willing to chat on the phone about your thoughts on Richmond, approaches I should take, etc. in pursuing this project. Also, check out my blog, which I am writing this summer from Palo Alto, CA.

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  8. Ha! I didn’t know Richmond was so rough!! We’re a counseling practice with locations in Boston, Philadelphia, and Atlanta. We just opened an admin headquarters in central VA, and are now looking at opening a counseling office in Richmond. … Any recommendations?? Other than to avoid Richmond? 🙂

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