Depending on how you count the years, the Richmond hostel has been 20, 8 or 4 years in the making. Which made last Saturday’s opening of the state-of-the-art hostel even more special and certainly worth the wait!
Score our first guest as a cyclist riding across Virginia, who arrived just a few hours after the hostel doors opened. By the end of the day, we also welcomed our first international guest, from France. Over the next several weeks, the 58-bed hostel is expected to be completely full with the upcoming 2015 UCI Road World Championships.
The night before the hostel opened, I was in Richmond for the volunteer and donor celebration. In the six weeks since my last visit, the building was transformed from a busy construction site to an operating hostel. A long ways from its original 1920s purpose as an assembly facility for Otis Elevators, the historic exterior has been largely preserved and the interior renovated with the latest in environmental and hostel amenities.
I walked through the front door to find a striking combination of sun filled rooms, dazzling hardwood floors, and comfy furnishings. The large common room is configured for guest and community use, and blends into a spacious, well equipped self-service kitchen designed for both cooking and conversation. Hand painted wall signage throughout the building boldly declares our nonprofit, cross-cultural aims. Amenities like laundry facilities, bicycle storage, and WiFi are plentiful, and the sleeping rooms include both dormitory and private options.
It’s a spectacular hostel that stands as a testament to the power of shared volunteer and staff commitment. Richmond for decades has been seen as an attractive city for a first-class hostel, both because of the city’s strong historic, cultural and recreational character, and for its location as a gateway to South. But the spark came in 2007, when a group of volunteers from Virginia to Maryland decided to make the project their priority.
With HI USA regional funds, the building was purchased in 2011. Essential renovation monies were pledged in 2013 as part of a national effort to create a larger, unified hostel presence in the United States. Even with that substantial commitment, a $950,000 gap remained for the $2.8 million project. To date, all but about $50,000 has been raised thanks to inspiring community support, plus individual donations from hostelling supporters around the country.
Looking forward, the hostel will benefit from HI USA’s focus on promoting community engagement and education. That begins with expanding local volunteer involvement, and then introducing programs to engage and serve local residents. Community members will have other opportunities to learn more soon, at ribbon cutting ceremony on September 10, and a VIP donor appreciation dinner later in the fall.
Opening a new hostel takes strong staff teamwork and Richmond is no exception. In addition to our local, regional and central office staff, the Richmond opening team drew from as far away as California, New York, Massachusetts and Texas. That made for a powerful feeling in the room as we gathered to celebrate the opening.
It’s not too late for you to be part of what’s happening in Richmond. Help us get the word out and share this blog post. Make a reservation and stay with us. Show your support with a donation. You’ll be part of something truly special!