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Richmond breaks ground on $6 million renovation of Monroe Park

The work will take between 12 and 18 months to complete and will bring new life to Richmond’s oldest public park in the heart of VCU.

Trevor Dickerson

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Richmond Mayor Dwight C. Jones joined representatives from the Monroe Park Conservancy, Virginia Commonwealth University and major donors this week to break ground on a $6 million extensive renovation of Monroe Park.

The park will be closed during renovation beginning Monday, November 14th, and the work is expected to take 12 to 18 months to complete. The project will include extensive infrastructure upgrades to underground sewer, gas, water and electrical systems.

The first five-week phase of construction will focus on arbor care. Park light poles and fixtures will be removed, stored and recycled in other parks. Park benches will be removed and saved. When the eight-acre park reopens, it will be fully sustainable, with a goal of mitigating water runoff, and will include the installation of LED lighting and native plants.

“Monroe Park will continue to be a place that is welcoming to everyone — a green, urban living room” said Alice Massie, president of the Monroe Park Conservancy that has led the renovation effort.

Supporters said a revitalized Monroe Park will be a vibrant, urban oasis for nearby residents and for VCU faculty, staff and students. VCU has committed to provide maintenance of the renovated park.

“We are very excited to work with our partners from the City of Richmond, the private sector and the Monroe Park Conservancy to bring this project to fruition and ensure its success,” said VCU President Michael Rao. “Richmond is our home and Monroe Park is a major asset for our city and for our university.”

“This park has a long history and has always served as an important hub in our city,” stated Mayor Jones. “Working in partnership with the Monroe Park Conservancy group and VCU to restore the park’s luster is an opportunity that we’ve embraced with great enthusiasm. We thank all of those contributing to help us reach our goal for the park’s restoration, building on our efforts to provide beautiful open and sustainable spaces that improve Richmond communities.”

The renovation of Richmond’s oldest city park was made possible through the successful completion of a multi-year $3 million private fundraising campaign. Altria and the Dominion Foundation each provided $500,000 in support of the project.

Under a 30-year lease agreement that City Council approved in March 2014, the non-profit Conservancy will operate the park following the City’s completion of the renovation. The Conservancy will steward the park in a partnership agreement with the city, ensuring that it remains a public park with access for all. This is a common practice nationally, including Central Park in New York and Rittenhouse Square in Philadelphia. Richmond’s Maymont Park operates through a similar arrangement.

Organizations that support the homeless, including Homeward and the United Way urge those interested in providing food or clothing to the homeless or those in need of food or clothing to call 2-1-1 for assistance while the park is closed.

Check out the Monroe Park Master Plan (PDF–it’s a big one, too) for more details on the plans and process.

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Trevor Dickerson is the Editor and Co-Founder of RVAHub.