Virginia Beach listed 6th best place to live (out of large cities)
Posted April 24, 2007on:
Virginia Beach was listed the 6th best place to live out of the Big Cities in Money magazines list for the top 10 big cities to live in, in America. Some of what Money magazine says about Virginia Beach is quite accurate, some isn’t. What you may want to know if you are considering a move to Virginia Beach, or one of the other cities in the 7-city Hampton Roads region.
- The region is the second largest metropolitan region in Virginia, second to Northern Virginia. By contrast, the 1.6 million people here is about a third of the size of the Northern Virginia/DC/Metropolitan Baltimore region; Northern Virginia alone is around 2.2 million people.
- The region has infrastructural issues that other metropolitan areas do not, such as poor transportation. For the most part, the only thing that really links these 7 cities together, other than population, is that citizens live in one city and work in another, and large, wide arterial roads (4 lanes each side) through the city and highways (2 to 6 lanes each side, sometimes broken up 4 or 6 for regular through traffic, an additional 4 just to exit the highway, or 8 to 10 lanes altogether; wider roads are being built) that are expanded all the time. Northern Virginia has transportation infrastructural issues as well, as does most growing cities in Virginia, but Northern Virginia also has a rail system that curbs some of that inconvenience.
- The tech jobs in the area are great if you’re educated, but difficult to attain if you have a high school diploma; the mentality that tech jobs can be attained with a modicum of experience may be true up north and in Richmond, but not here. Expect to work the floors of call centers, or similar service industry jobs, for a while before you start to see any real money in your pockets.
- The median home price that is mentioned is more for a starter home, and wouldn’t buy an upper middle class family anything they could truly appreciate. Property taxes are rising all the time, and residents often leave one city for another in lieu of affordable housing, or for the countryside altogether.
- Virginia Beach, despite its many military bases and growing tech base, is still a tourist town, though that is changing, slowly. The skyscrapers you see going up in the metro area are high-rise condominiums and retail projects, not office buildings. The other tourist traps are Norfolk and Williamsburg, the former for the sophisticate in you, the other for the historian.
- The region feels as though it is one city, even though it is 7 distinct cities. For example Norfolk, Portsmouth, Newport News and Hampton would be considered as the “inner city” or the “core” of the city; Norfolk is the downtown area in the region, Portsmouth and Newport News not so much but are very urban in other ways, Virginia Beach has a downtown, but then again so do a lot of other suburban areas outside of major cities as well, Chesapeake and Suffolk are even more so suburban than Virginia Beach, particularly Suffolk. Yet again Suffolk has it’s own definite downtown area as well, Chesapeake not so much at all.
- If you want high rises go to Northern Virginia. In that region there are plenty of parking garages and even shopping malls are built into high rises. They also have Crystal City. Alexandria has more high-rises and office space than most cities in America in a smaller urban footprint than you would expect. Hampton Roads is spread out though a lot of “fill-in” development is occuring; new high rises where land is limited, single family homes built on extremely small lots, etc.
Other than that crime is abnormally low for a city of Virginia Beach’s magnitude (over 400,000), the secret, is that you can live anywhere in the 7 cities and take advantage of what Virginia Beach has to offer. You would expect to hear about someone getting shot every other day in a city of its size. You can drive from one side of the metro to the other in an hour on the highway, or two and a half driving regular city streets. Not sure if I would have ranked Virginia Beach as 6th of large cities, but it’s great to know that other people seem to think so. Other than that I would like to see better access to transportation and further diversification of the tech sector here.
If you want to live cheaply my best advice would be considering living to the near south of the area, perhaps Suffolk, an enormous underdeveloped city that is like the largest of the 7 cities with the smallest population. More of a rural feel with the advantages of being close to a major city, which in this case would be Norfolk and Portsmouth; though you might want to purchase that place like yesterday, because home values are appreciating there too. Your commute would be like a half hour to an hour or more, but you can still rent out there for like $700, which is a third less than what you’d expect to pay elsewhere in the region. Or you could really go out of your way and go south of there, which would put you in North Carolina; a lot of people are enthusiastic about Elizabeth City, which is pretty far out, but an affordable town of like 17,000.
North Carolina is a very beautiful place to live, though I’ve been told there isn’t much work out in the country. I don’t know; the way I see it, if you want to live somewhere bad enough you’ll find a way to make ends meet while you’re there. But if you are thinking of commuting back to this area from there expect to drive a few hours. As far as Southeastern Virginia, as mentioned earlier, some of the seven cities are very urban and some aren’t. It’s mostly the older cities that are, Norfolk, Portsmouth, Newport News, Hampton, the newer areas like Virginia Beach and Chesapeake are, but have a lot of that suburban feel to it as well; for example Chesapeake is more densely populated or “urban” closer to where it borders with Norfolk, like South Norfolk, for example, but where it connects to Virginia Beach it’s more of the same. Virginia Beach is a bit more urban on the Oceanfront and the new downtown they’re building in the center of the city, but for the most part it’s still a rather young city.
But you may want to take advantage of its hybrid feel right now, before prices move up any more than what they already have. All of the spread out, vacant areas are being filled in with different businesses; I should mention that of the office space you will find there, tends to be spread out all over the place, but the market seems to be for those high-rise condominiums though.
One more thing, people often want to know about “racial harmony”, when it comes to living in a new place, particularly if they’re in an interracial situation, for lack of a better term. There never is a polite enough way to speak on this, but I haven’t noticed any real problems, I never felt like I was being treated differently because of my race or anything, and people seem to be OK with pretty much anything around here, rather accepting of individuals differences. Everyone is here, not just from different parts of the country but the world; you’ll find a lot of military personnel in places like Virginia Beach and people who have defected from colder areas like the Northeast for the warmer, laid back atmosphere here, others are attracted to the nightlife in Norfolk. I seriously do not think you’ll have a hard time particularly when you see a lot of couples or singles with children of different races and so on and so forth.
The only real complaints I’ve heard is that there is too heavy of a police presence here or that everyone dresses or looks the same or whatever, but then again when you’re young that tends to happen anyway; there is fashion, if you want it and are willing to pay for it, but if you’re looking for the same atmosphere you’re used to up North or out in California that’s like, more of your problem, not anyone elses. There is upscale shopping here; Town Center in Virginia Beach has stores like Ann Taylor Loft, Blue Taxi Clothing Co, Brooks Brothers and S.T.A.C. where you can find that $100 pair of jeans you’re looking for or that $500 suit or whatever; a decidedly different atmosphere than what you’ll find out at Lynnhaven and Macarthur Mall in Norfolk has a Nordstrom where you’re hard pressed to find anything less than a $100, even on sale. It’s only pedestrian if you shop where everyone else shops at, and aren’t creative enough to look high and low to find the right stuff to put together the right look. Then again I always thought that was part of the fun …
Anyway I think I’ve made a good move. Though I’ll complain about sitting in traffic and the lack of a train I’ve seen worse traffic and I’ve seen worse problems, both social and economic, that seem to be missing here, for the most part.