Kanawha renovations continue despite funding concerns

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Kanawha Plaza renovations are moving forward, however 8News has learned there are still big questions about who’s paying for the project.

It’s been five months since the City of Richmond bulldozed the wall around Kanawha Plaza and put up a chain-linked fence with the Mayor’s promise of a newly renovated park complete with a stage, food truck court and fountain repairs.

We’re learning the renovations are moving forward – construction of phase II is set to begin January 25th and it includes landscaping, lighting, ramps and stairs.  Jeff Eastman commissioner of the Urban Design Committee offered this update at a recent committee meeting.

“The update from them is they actually anticipate construction will begin sometime here in January.”

But  8News confirmed this project moves forward without the promised $6 million in private donations.

“They are continuing to do more fund raising,” says Eastman.

In an email obtained by 8News, the city’s Deputy Chief Administrative Officer Debra Gardner tells a planning commissioner while they have ” received commitments of in-kind services, the city has not officially accepted any pledges or funds.”

In a statement to 8News, Gardner says “the city is using $2.6 million in a capital improvement program funding toward this project with the remaining funding being provided through private donations to the Enrichmond Foundation.”

8News reached out to the Enrichmond Foundation, and we were told they haven’t even signed the contract yet to start fundraising for the project.

Dominion has been mentioned many times, and in these emails, 8News uncovered as a potential donor.

8News contacted Dominion and was told the power company gave $500,000 for a design study, but has not given any money towards the renovations nor do they plan to.

8news has also learned that many have been sounding the alarm about this project for months, including members of the planning commission and the non-profit Capital Trees, questioning why work would start without the $6 million in hand and urging the administration “there is no need to rush this project.”

The emails go on to say that to move forward with this project without the private funds would be a “slap in the face, not only to capital trees and other non-profit organizations trying to help Richmond capitalize on its natural beauty, but to the citizens themselves, who have entrusted city leadership to manage our natural and financial resources.”

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