Hostel will breathe new life into Richmond

Illustration by Miranda Leung

Olivia Talbott
Staff Columnist

A hostel is coming to downtown Richmond and is looking to spark newfound interest in our city’s tourism industry.

N 7. 2nd Street, also known as the historic Otis Elevator building, will soon be the refuge for young, penny-conscious backpackers hoping to experience Richmond. Purchased in September 2011 by Hostelling International USA (HI) the building is finally coming full circle in its makeover.

The nonprofit bought the location for $525,000 and is “still doing fundraising,” according to Netanya Lutz, the group’s communications manager, in order to complete the $1 million renovations. The hostel will bring new life, flavor and culture to the already beautifully diverse downtown Richmond.

The HI Richmond website says people of all ages wish to enjoy Richmond’s sites, although their target demographic are youths. Vibrant travelers will bring culture to Richmond. There will be a transaction between travelers and VCU students, worth much more than currency.

“There’s a trend right now for the smaller, second-tier cities to bring hostels,” Lutz said.

Basically, we have a leg up on the bigger, more notable tourist cities: Young travelers are looking for what is real. Downtown Richmond will give them just that.

American students have a narrow idea of travel and tourism. Studying abroad provides the opportunity to travel to those with an extra $4,000 lying around. At the core of the American student is a relentless nature in accomplishing goals with an expiration date. Hopefully the travelers from this hostel will show VCU students that life pushing a pencil with due dates is no more than life on the cusp of living. Hopefully, interests in traveling abroad will grow on VCU’s campus in a broader scheme, opening minds to all the possibilities of travel.

Because HI Richmond is a nonprofit organization, students will have the opportunity to volunteer for the cause of travel. In the past, HI has provided free nights in the hostel after tenants perform community service. This will provide VCU students the chance to get involved and offers a new form of volunteer option for students, who will receive a more significant takeaway: broadened horizons.

Volunteer commitments look good on any resume and will allow students the opportunity to gain experience with foreigners without ever going abroad. Nights in the hostel will ignite student’s minds with the ideas of personal travel, while offering them the opportunity to stay in the hostel and meet young people from all over the globe.

Travelers are bringing a backpack, expectations and just $28, but they’ll take a world away with them when they return home: $28 will buy these spirited individuals a premiere experience of Richmond and stories to tell their grandchildren.

Those staying at the hostel will be right beside the home of the First Fridays Art Walk and less than a mile stroll to the James River. Interacting with travelers down on the river, out on the town, at pubs and museums will afford VCU students a window into the world.

Our city is more than Civil War history and battleground sites. The location of the hostel will hopefully highlight a different picture of Richmond than the one offered in tourist brochures.

Our Richmond isn’t only historic, but also new age. Richmond is a Squirrels game, the new exhibit at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, regular and hipster bikers, dubstep groups at The National, the gorgeous first day of spring in Maymont park, brunch at The Sidewalk Café, a night out at Star-lite then 3 Monkeys, the simplicity of a day down on the rocks at the river, a most impeccable take on pizza at Bottom’s Up, street musicians in Carytown and a night saved up for Shockoe Bottom.

Our Richmond is one to see and HI Richmond agrees.

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