BC City Guide: Richmond
Credit: Tourism Richmond

widgetB.C.’s most Asian city combines culinary delights and a thriving economy with quick access to nature

To call Richmond multicultural is an understatement. Visible minorities of Asian descent are the majority in B.C.’s fourth-largest city, accounting for about three-quarters of residents, Statistics Canada reports. Although you can meet people from 140 ethnicities here, the biggest group is those of Chinese ancestry, who comprise some 55 percent of the population.

Accordingly, Asian culture exerts a strong influence on Richmond, which lies south of Vancouver on the Fraser River delta. In the Golden Village shopping district, the Aberdeen Centre, Parker Place and Yaohan Centre malls often feel like their Hong Kong counterparts. Nearby Alexandra Road, also known as Food Street, is home to more than 200 restaurants offering a staggering variety of Asian cuisine. In Richmond, you can also follow the Dumpling Trail, a culinary journey offered by a group of 20 restaurants. You won’t have trouble finding a karaoke bar—or a menu devoid of English. And this is a city where, in a nod to Chinese superstition, many condo towers don’t have a fourth, 13th or 14th floor.

Gridlock may be the norm on No. 3 Road, but Richmond has its pastoral side, too. Because the oceanside community sits at sea level, it’s always at risk of flooding from the Fraser. But its rich soil makes it one of the Lower Mainland’s agricultural hot spots, with some 4,900 hectares, or almost 40 percent, of the city’s total area falling inside the Agricultural Land Reserve. Although Richmond is best known for cranberries and blueberries—it’s Canada’s top cranberry producer—its 200-plus farms grow a variety of other crops.

The local economy is highly diversified, thanks to employers ranging from the Port of Vancouver and space-tech company Maxar Technologies Ltd. to retail giant London Drugs Ltd. and industrial wood pellet maker Pinnacle Renewable Energy Inc. The city estimates that it has 1.4 jobs for each resident worker, so much of its labour force hails from other communities.

Attractions include Metro Vancouver’s largest summer night market, whose roughly 500 stalls draw more than 30,000 visitors on a typical evening. Another popular spot is picturesque Steveston Village, which doubles as the fictional town of Storybrooke in the “Once Upon a Time” television series. In real life, Steveston is Canada’s largest commercial fishing harbour, with more than 500 boats coming and going every day. For the spiritually inclined, Richmond offers two of North America’s biggest Buddhist temples—one on No. 5 Road’s Highway to Heaven, a collection of 60-plus churches, mosques and other religious sites that showcases the city’s cultural and racial harmony.

Residents have easy access to nature, from central Minoru Park and Iona Beach Regional Park to the city’s extensive trail network. The vast Richmond Olympic Oval, a legacy of the 2010 Winter Games, is Canada’s only official Olympic museum and a magnet for recreational athletes. Whatever the people of Richmond do to stay healthy, it’s working: at 85.7, their life expectancy beats the national average by more than four years.

Population: 211,841
Household age (0-45, 45-64, 64+): 29.3%, 46.1%, 24.6%
University grads: 35.2%
Average household income: $94,408
Average household income under 45: $84,788
Five-year income growth, 2012-17: 13.7%
Five-year population growth: 7%

Average detached home price: $1,800,000
Average condominium price: $504,000
Average monthly rent for a two-bedroom: $1,188
Average annual household spending on shelter: $22,802

Key industries: Agri-foods; aviation; film and television production; clean technology; health care; logistics; manufacturing; retail; technology; hospitality and tourism
Notable employers: Crown Packaging; Great Canadian Gaming Corp.; Grimm’s Fine Foods; London Drugs Ltd.; Maxar Technologies Ltd.; McKesson Medical Imaging Group; Nature’s Path Foods Inc.; Ocean Spray Canada Ltd.; Pinnacle Renewable Energy; Port of Vancouver; Sage Software; Sierra Wireless Inc.; Vancouver International Airport
Regional unemployment: 4% (February)

Total value of building permits issued in 2017: $709,100,000
Change from 2016: –0.9%
Average processing time for a building permit: Varies by scope of project 
Cost of a business licence: $172-$3,920
Business property tax rate: $11.72 per $1,000 of assessed value
Average office lease rate per sq. ft./year: $7-$33
Average retail lease rate: $12-$32

Quality of LifeQUALITY OF LIFE
Major post-secondary institutions: British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT); Kwantlen Polytechnic University; Sprott Shaw College; Trinity Western University
Major recreational amenities: Richmond Cultural Centre; 100 parks; 80-kilometre network of trails, cycling routes and walkways; eight skating rinks; curling club; eight community centres; two aquatic centres; two outdoor pools
Key annual events: Steveston Farmers and Artisans Market; Richmond Night Market; Steveston Salmon Festival; Richmond Maritime Festival; Richmond World Festival
Average annual household spending on recreation: $4,684
Residents who walk or bike to work: 2.6%