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The Ultimate Guide to Living in & Moving to Richmond, British Columbia

Richmond, BC

 

Is living on a coastal city in your bucket list? Moving to Richmond, BC might be the right move for you!

Richmond, BC is a stunning coastal city located just 20 minutes south of downtown metropolitan Vancouver. It’s location on Lulu island at the mouth of the Fraser River and bordered by the Georgia Strait is augmented by a massive 60% immigrant population, making it the quintessential representation of modern western Canada; diverse, teeming with life, culture and opportunity.

At a population of 190,473, Richmond has become a hub for recreation, exploration and outdoor lifestyles and hosted a portion of the iconic Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics. Located on traditional Coast Salish territory, the islands have historically been used as bountiful summer camps, rich in dynamic flora and fauna.

 

History & Geography

An uncharacteristically flat portion of Metro Vancouver, Richmond’s elevation maxes out at 39 feet. Richmond comprises most of the island networks in the Fraser River Delta, with the largest and most populated island being Lulu Island where the City of Richmond lies – but a tiny eastern portion of Lulu known as the Queensborough neighbourhood is a part of New Westminster City. Richmond also houses the Vancouver International Airport on one of its islands; Sea Island. 15 additional islands make up the rest of the region.

Traditionally, the Coast Salish people have used the islands as a place to fish and gather berries. Temporary semi-permanent camps were offset by a few permanent villages set close-by to modern day Steveston and Sea Island.

Because of its low-lying nature and proximity to the ocean, flooding has traditionally been a problem for the island city at high tide, but a positive repercussion of this flooding is the abundance of rich alluvial soil – loose soil and sediment that has been eroded and reshaped by water in some way and deposited in a non-marine setting – Richmond is well known for its agricultural roots, and was one of the first islands settings to be farmed extensively by European settlers. These days, all major islands are extensively protected by dykes to stop anticipated flooding.

Geographically, Richmond is far from the Rocky mountains, which translates into a mild temperate climate with approximately 30% less rain and precipitation than that of the nearby City of Vancouver. Snow comes down at a minimum – about 35 inches per year – and average temperatures range from 6-15 degrees Celsius.

The Township of Richmond was founded in 1879 by an Ontarian, Father John Wesley Sexsmith, originally from Richmond, Ontario. The township was incorporated as a city as recently as 1990.

 

Arts, Culture & Heritage

The City of Richmond enjoys a rich arts and cultural background thanks in part to its revamped Arts Strategy geared at helping to facilitate growth and opportunity for the greater community. The current Arts Strategy has been valid from 2012-2017 and has incorporated five main visions for the City

  • To promote Richmond as an arts destination
  • Provide great facilities and physical infrastructure
  • Engage in a strong civic commitment
  • Encourage collaboration, education and integration
  • Build an economically sustainable framework for the arts

The city is home to a number of cultural and heritage facilities including the main branch of the Richmond Library, Museum, Art Gallery and Archives. For theatre buffs, the popular 540-seat Gateway Theatre is home to the Gateway Academy of the Performing Arts and overlooks Minoru Park. It’s known as one of the most beautiful theatres in Canada.

The city’s Public Art Program aims to foster the development and inclusion of public art throughout the community by placing art in everyday locations. Supported by the City Public Art Plan, patrons can experience contemporary art, street art, sculpture and installations by following a comprehensive, evolving map of public art features.

Richmond is also home to two Buddhist temples that are considered two of the largest in North America – the International Buddhist Temple and the Ling Yen Mountain Temple.

 

Festivals and Events

There are 60 festivals and events listed on Destination BC’s events page for Richmond, including the Vancouver Opera Festival, KDocs – the film festival of Kwantlen Polytechnic features 4 days of cinema and 12 films, the Coastal First Nations Dance Festival in partnership with the Museum of Anthropology at UBC, Art! Vancouver, and the Winterruption Festival – the coast’s favourite winter festival that celebrates the best in music, art, theatre and food on Granville Island.

 

Parks & Recreation

Richmond is home to over 1900 acres of public park land and over 70 kilometers of trails, and 60 kilometers of road cycling paths, cementing itself as a major player in outdoor recreation. With 145 parks to explore and use, Richmond offers recreational open space in nearly every neighbourhood and corner of the island chain.

A few notable parks include the Britannia Heritage Shipyard Park, one of Richmond’s Signature Parks, that boasts a 8.14 acre national historic site in Steveston Village. The Shipyards offers a view of a historic salmon cannery and access to a heritage boardwalk and historic docks.

Garden City Community Park is one of the most popular visitor parks in Richmond thanks to its massive arboretum that houses two unique groups of trees – one to represent Asian native trees from China, Japan and Korea, and the other to represent trees native to Canada and North America. The park also features a mountain bike terrain park, a skateboard park, and a lake, complete with a large bridge.

Minoru Park lies at the heart of Richmond and boasts bowling greens, basketball courts, a cricket pitch, walking paths, and a premiere sports facility that hosts soccer, baseball and track and field. The park is also home to many staple Richmond cultural amenities like the Library, a state-of-the-art aquatic centre, art gallery, and cultural centre.

For those with a hankering to get out of the city atmosphere, the Terra Nova Rural Park and Natural Area feature over 90 acres of city-wide nature park in the Thompson area, complete with boardwalks, slough and viewing platforms for wildlife viewing. The Natural Area features a perimeter trail and interpretive signs noting all of the native plants that can be viewed within the park. The 200 acre Richmond Nature Park is a raised peat bog that is home to over 5 km of trails, forests and ponds.

 

Economy

The island structure of Richmond helped to dramatically spark the economy of Richmond in the early days of its inception, with salmon fishing and cannery operations popping up all over the tenure. The seafarer culture of Richmond soon led to other marine-related industries like boat-building and waves of Japanese immigrants that make up 60% of the modern population.

These residents have brought with them an unmistakable culture of food and recreation that help boost the culinary-tourism aspect of Richmond. Over 400 Asian restaurants dot Richmond as a mecca of mouthwatering Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese, Malaysian and Japanese restaurants.

Major economic drivers that support the nearly 100,000 jobs in Richmond include light manufacturing, airport and aviation sector. Agriculture and fishing are still staple economic drivers of the area as well. Richmond is also a major centre for high-technology companies including MacDonald Dettwiler & Associates, as well as Sierra Wireless. Pacific Coastal Airlines operates its HQ from Richmond.

The Agricultural Land Reserve occupies nearly 5000 hectares of farmland in Richmond, with cranberries and blueberries representing the dominant crops. About 47% of British Columbia’s entire cranberry acreages are located in Richmond.

The film industry is also a large aspect of Richmond’s economy. The city and islands have been used in an impressive number of Hollywood films and television shows for their urban neighbourhoods, agricultural lands, bog forests, waterfront parks and beaches. Notable film/TV credits for Richmond include 50/50, 50 Shades of Grey, The interview, Robocop, Bates Motel, Godzilla (2014), Psych, the X-Files, and the Amazing Race.

Median household income for Richmond according to the 2011 National Household Survey was $60,000

 

Healthcare & Education

Healthcare is overseen by the Vancouver Coastal Health Authority, a governmental body that also serves the City of Vancouver, District of West Vancouver, as well as the District & City of North Van and many other coastal communities. Richmond Hospital serves as the only hospital in the city, and Richmond is regarded globally as the worldwide headquarters of the Canadian Canadian Hemochromatosis Society.

Richmond is home to a few post secondary campuses, notably a campus of the Kwantlen Polytechnic University, and a satellite campus of Sprott Shaw College. The British Columbia Institute of Technology also runs a well-known aerospace technology program located near the Vancouver International Airport.

The public school system is overseen by School District 38 Richmond and includes 10 secondary schools and 38 elementary schools. Included here are three Montessori schools, and nine French Immersion program schools. The International Baccalaureate World School has a location within Richmond Secondary School.

 

Transportation

Richmond is connected to the City of Vancouver and Delta by a series of tunnels and bridges. Three bridges connect Lulu Island to Sea Island and the Vancouver Intl Airport and two bridges connect Lulu to Vancouver itself. The city is accessible by two major highway systems, Highway 99 that connects to the US border via Interstate 5, and Highway 91, connecting Delta, New Westminster and Richmond.

Railways are also prevalent in Richmond. Including the Canadian National and Canadian Pacific Railways, TransLink has a number of routes connecting Richmond to downtown Vancouver, Surrey, New Westminster, Burnaby, Delta and UBC. The SkyTrain line, Canada Line connects Richmond to downtown Vancouver and opened in summer of 2009.

Vancouver International Airport (YVR) is located on Sea Island, and several float plane services operate from its south terminal, providing travel to the Gulf Islands and Vancouver Island.

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