Now don't laugh. I LOVE RICHMOND. I have been passionately, over-the-top, in love with this capital city since 1996. I admit I have an excessive love for this city.
What makes me love it so? Well, it reminds me of DC and South Arlington (this is where I grew up...I moved a whole three miles away as an adult to Alexandria) of the '80s. Not too crowded, a little gritty, pockets of beauty, culture in the form of many museums, theater, and diversity, friendly folks, and interesting little shops and restaurants wherever you turn. It is a city with a small-town feel.
Well, DC and Arlington grew up and became the uber-mega-city that it is today (although thank the sweet Lord that there are still lovely pockets like Old Town). I get so frustrated to see my hometown of Arlington turned into a hipster's paradise. People act like Arlington still has all those things that I waxed poetically about in the last paragraph, but so much of it has become cleansed and generic. For example, in North Arlington, there is a neighborhood called Clarendon which in the early 2000s reached a height of mass hysteria. Everyone had to move there...such a small town feel in such an urban space...blah, blah, blah. Well, yes, Clarendon did have that...in 1992. Then everyone "discovered" it, small shops, homes, and buildings were all torn down to make way for some sort of "new urbanism" project. What was put up in the place of an actual small town in an urban space? A clean, shiny, developer's wet dream of an urban space...now there are apartments, luxury condos and townhouses...and guess what? You can walk to the Pottery Barn and the Starbucks (I love both by the way...but not when it means tearing down something that isn't broken...) and then head to the metro for a jaunt to another "new urban" project in DC.
I can't speak to what has happened to DC because of the development, but I do know that it is happening. Some of DC may have needed the developer's magic touch. In fact, I am hugely in favor of bringing development and commerce to places that DESPERATELY need it. If a place is quite lovely on its own, why destroy it by making it exactly like the rest of the country? And please spare me the whole "Clarendon is unique thing." It was...now its uniqueness is limited. It still is special, but I bet it could have been even more special if there had been more time and energy spent to retain some of the lovely original features of that neighborhood.
My biggest worry? I grew up in South Arlington, very near Glebe Road and Columbia Pike. This area has GORGEOUS old buildings from the 20s, 30s, 40s, and 50s. I am all for maintaining and preserving these examples of the 20th-century, but unfortunately many of them (remember Arlington Hardware?) are being torn down to make way for brand-spanking new buildings made to "look" like the buildings they just tore down. AGH!
Now granted, I am not a bleeding heart liberal who wants to get rid of development. I LOVE most big box stores. I happily head down to Potomac Mills on a regular basis. Heck, I even visit them in outer Richmond. :) Here's the thing...do they really need to be in the inner-city and inner-suburbs? Can we save the small businesses and smaller, more affordable homes or does progress spell something different? I am sure you know how I feel.
So back to my original post topic, why Richmond? I feel that Richmond, because of its neat juxtaposition of history and demographics (it isn't booming the way NOVA is), will be able to maintain and preserve an area of loveliness and culture without having to overdo it the way Arlington has had to...
I am planning on publishing posts from the places I went this weekend. I go there often, so I hope there will be many future posts highlighting some of these places I have come to adore.