Richmond: A Perspective on CNN’s #1 Ranking

by | Jun 25, 2024 | EDITORIAL, NEWS, PINNED

Yesterday, Richmond, Virginia, was named the number one town to visit in America by CNN, and as someone who has lived in Richmond for 26 years, it is natural that I would have some mixed feelings. We all know Richmond is special, but articles like this, while exciting and interesting, also highlights ongoing concerns we have about what the future of this city (not town) holds and how we are evolving as a community.

GREAT FOR BUSINESS, GREAT FOR CREATIVES

From the jump, Richmond being recognized nationally like this might mean more visitors, more revenue for local business, and maybe new job opportunities. However, we have been recognized like this before and the tangible impacts of that recognition is hard to immediately quantify. The unintended benefits might be even better with more people going to shows, more people supporting local art and culture — having Richmond exported nationally and even internationally only attracts more events, performances, and exhibitions that add to the fabric of the city. These are all great things, but as with every great thing there is always a flip side.

CONDO CULTURE: DON’T NOVA MY RVA

The flipside of the national spotlight potentially exacerbates our local challenges — from housing affordability to the kinds of hyper gentrification we’re seeing on every street with the emergence of new condo developments. The fear of long-term residents, especially in the neighborhoods this article highlights, runs a very real risk of being priced out of Richmond, changing the character of the city in a way that undermines our value to things like art and culture. 

In our pages, we often use Washington DC and NOVA as an example of what we are hoping to avoid in Richmond — insurmountable housing and rental costs, generic restaurants and nightlife, infuriating traffic, and soulless corporate landscapes. Up there it is about the culture of money, not a cultural fabric which creates the rich tapestry that Richmond is ultimately known for. 

Hopefully we can avoid this in Richmond, but the prognosis is not good.

WE NEED BALANCE 

The challenge ahead is to balance the benefits of increased national recognition and attention with the need to preserve what makes Richmond the amazing place we all know and love. 

We need city sponsored projects that include affordable housing, while simultaneously ensuring re-located mega corporations continue to pay their fair share. This growing tension needs to be balanced for Richmond to succeed in maintaining its cultural character and, at the root of this, corporate interests and community needs must be better aligned.

Environmental sustainability should also be a priority. With more tourists, residents, and hyper development, we must invest in preserving our most critical assets — our natural environment. This is another issue where corporate interests and the city need to be more firmly engaged with one another by promoting eco-friendly living (and tourism) that ensures our environment will not be negatively impacted — this will be essential in moving forward.

WHAT CAN WE DO?

As citizens, more than ever, we need to engage with city planning and development processes – and vote in local elections; every election matters, as all politics is local, especially with an influx in new residents who have not had time to fully absorb the depth of what Richmond needs politically. This is where we can protect what we value most, advocating for politicians and policies that will protect affordable housing, support local businesses that are community driven, and push for environmental sustainability — all of which will help preserve the culture which celebrates our city’s rich diversity and history.

We need to prioritize local businesses that are community-focused and participate in cultural events that celebrate our city’s diversity and history. Only by staying involved and prioritizing what makes Richmond a vibrant (and oftentimes dysfunctional) community, can we truly embrace the opportunities that come from this kind of national and international recognition.

FUTURE SO BRIGHT 

For long-term residents, being recognized as America’s best town to visit is hardly shocking — that’s why we call Richmond home. But like all cities, Richmond is also sitting at a crossroads and there are decisions to make which will determine if we can retain that title in the short-to-medium term.

Main image is the D*Face mural in Downtown Richmond

R. Anthony Harris

R. Anthony Harris

I created Richmond, Virginia’s culture publication RVA Magazine and brought the first Richmond Mural Project to town. Designed the first brand for the Richmond’s First Fridays Artwalk and promoted the citywide “RVA” brand before the city adopted it as the official moniker. I threw a bunch of parties. Printed a lot of magazines. Met so many fantastic people in the process. Professional work: www.majormajor.me




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