Virginia Metropolitan Areas Dispersing

Population data from the 2010 Census has been made available for Richmond and Virginia Beach- Norfolk. In both cases, the bulk of the population growth is in the suburbs.

Virginia Beach-Norfolk: The Virginia Beach-Norfolk metropolitan area grew from 1,576,000 in 2000 to 1,672,000 in 2010, a gain of 6.0 percent, which is a decline from 8.8 percent in the 1990s. The municipal core municipality of Norfolk gained from 234,000 to 243,000, an increase of 3.6 percent.

Suburban growth was 6.5 percent and the suburbs accounted for 91 percent of the population growth. The suburbs include Virginia Beach, which is largely a post-World War II suburban municipality. The metropolitan area is principally named for Virginia Beach because it is the largest municipality.

Richmond: The Richmond metropolitan area grew from 1,097,000 in 2000 to 1,258,000 in 2010, a gain of 14.7 percent. The historical core municipality of Richmond grew from 198,000 to 204,000, for an increase of 3.2 percent. Richmond remains below its population peak of 249,000, reached in 1970. In both the 2010 and 1970 censuses, Richmond’s land area was 60 square miles. In 1950, the population (237,000) was higher than in 2010, despite a land area of only 37 square miles.

The suburbs added 17.2 percent to their population and accounted for 96 percent of the metropolitan area growth.

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Virginia Beach was once Princess Anne County

Most of the present-day City of Virginia Beach was once Princess Anne County. Unlike most other U.S. states, Virginia law requires cities to be entirely independent of counties, so in a sense they are counties (they must provide "county" services like a judicial system, sheriff's office and public schools, and the U.S. Census Bureau assigns each Virginia city a unique county code).

Unlike most Virginia counties, cities also maintain their own roads and streets (with the exception of two counties, the Virginia Department of Transportation has ownership and maintenance responsibility for very nearly all public roads, streets and highways across the Commonwealth in unincorporated areas).

Virginia Beach was a small independent city prior to 1963, when, by mutual agreement, the city merged with Princess Anne County, effectively annexing all of the land area of the county, wiping the county from the map (and apparently not by coincidence, precluding any annexation of the former county by the City of Norfolk, as cities cannot annex territory from other cities in Virginia).

In spite of being legally defined as a city, most of Virginia Beach is utterly suburban, with the Oceanfront area of the city bearing at least some resemblance to Atlantic Ocean resorts further north in Maryland, Delaware and New Jersey.