Look, Ma, I'm in Richmond! Why RVA is the Ultimate Destination for Young Professionals

As an aspiring professional venturing into the early stages of a career, the task of choosing the perfect launching pad can be overwhelming. But fear not! Richmond, a rapidly expanding city, has emerged as an idyllic oasis for young professionals like myself, brimming with new and exciting opportunities. Since moving here last year, I’ve discovered three key attributes that have exceeded my expectations, solidifying Richmond as the ultimate choice for post-graduates.

Young professionals collaborate at Richmond office
i. Collaboration at the Hanbury Richmond office. Credit: Mario Gandia (Hanbury)

A Career Accelerator…With Rocket Boosters

After graduating from Virginia Tech in 2022 with a Bachelor of Architecture, I moved to Richmond with little knowledge of its business climate, people, or culture. I initially assumed I would be a small fish in a small pond. However, upon arrival, I was met with a city on the brink of transformation. As the capital of the second-ranked state for business opportunities, Richmond attracts significant investment from numerous Fortune 500 companies, resulting in a surge of opportunities across all industries. In addition, its convenient transportation links to major metropolitan hubs like Washington DC, Baltimore, and New York City amplify these prospects. Still skeptical? Allow me to share some compelling statistics:

  • Ranked #1 for business climate according to Site Selection’s 2022 report
  • Boasts the most efficient airport in North America, as recognized by the Air Transport Research Society in 2023
  • One of the Top 10 metro areas for corporate headquarters, according to Business Facilities in 2023

It doesn’t take an architect to recognize that Richmond’s ongoing urban rejuvenation paves the way for young professionals to forge valuable connections and ride the wave of progress.

ii. Hanbury Summer Scholars during an outing on the James River. Credit: Mario Gandia (Hanbury)

The Small “Big” City Lifestyle

Having spent a considerable portion of my life in the densely populated city-state of Singapore, relocating to Richmond has been a breath of fresh air. This city offers a harmonious blend of laid-back living and dynamic experiences, encompassing affordable living costs, proximity to nature, diverse culinary options, and a myriad of activities. Here’s a glimpse into the appeal of this small “big” city:

  • Housing costs are 15% lower than the state average and 12% lower than the national average, (Rentcafe, 2023)
  • A staggering 80% of residents have the luxury of living within a 10-minute stroll of any of Richmond’s 175 parks (Trust for Public Land, 2023)
  • The James River takes the crown as the number one destination for walking and hiking (River Travel Magazine, 2021)
  • Richmond proudly holds the title of Virginia’s best city for cycling (People For Bikes, 2020)
  • With over 580 concerts and events scheduled for 2023, there’s no shortage of entertainment options to fill your calendar (Songkick, 2023)
  • Notably, Richmond secures its place among America’s top 10 foodie cities (Yelp, 2023)

As young professionals, the weekends in Richmond are an open invitation to endless activities. Throughout the year, I was constantly surprised by the city’s duality, discovering hidden gems tucked away in quaint neighborhoods like Joe’s Inn and Bamboo Café, while also immersing myself in the vibrant and modern brewery scene of Scotts Addition.

iii. First Fridays at Hanbury’s Richmond office. Credit: Mario Gandia (Hanbury)

The Vibrant Tapestry of Richmond’s Community

Richmond’s residents are among the friendliest and most welcoming I have ever met. Proud of their hometown, they are always eager to share their favorite local spots with newcomers like me, some of which have become my go-to places. The diversity of the city provides ample avenues for exploration and meaningful conversations.

  • According to the US Census Bureau’s 2023 report, an impressive 30% of Richmond’s residents fall between 20 and 34, creating a vibrant and youthful energy.
  • WalletHub recognizes Richmond as the eighth most diverse mid-sized city in the country in 2023, highlighting the variety of backgrounds and perspectives contributing to its cultural fabric.
  • Richmond secures the top spot as the number one city for dating, as proclaimed by the Thriving Center of Psychology in 2023.
  • Richmond has achieved a perfect score in the Human Rights Campaign’s Municipal Equality Index (MEI) for the third year, showcasing its dedication to LGBTQ protections and promoting inclusivity and equality.

Whether strolling through the charming neighborhoods or enjoying a meal at a local restaurant, you can always count on the people of Richmond to make you feel right at home. Richmond’s diverse and inclusive community, from young professionals to retirees, makes it easy to find your tribe and make lifelong friends.

As I approach my second year in Richmond, I am reminded of why this city is such an inspiring place to live. Whether you’re looking for career growth, a diverse lifestyle, or simply a community of amazing people, Richmond has carved out a special place for you to call home.

About the Author

Johnathan is a Designer at Hanbury, a multidisciplinary architecture firm specializing in higher education, science & technology, and civic/community projects. He is an avid participant in Hanbury’s research collective Orange Juice, always looking for potential partners to implement innovative solutions to boutique placemaking projects. Along with coordinating the First Friday events at Hanbury, he enjoys architectural sketching and golden hour electric scooter rides down Broad Street.