RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Monroe Park will be closed starting Monday, November 14 for its extensive $6 million renovation project.
Mayor Dwight C. Jones, representatives from the Monroe Park Conservancy, and major donors broke ground on the project last Wednesday.
“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 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 8-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, according to a press release from Monroe Park Conservancy.
“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.”
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.
“Monroe Park has been a landmark in the heart of the City of Richmond for generations,” said Thomas F. Farrell II, Dominion chairman, president and CEO. “This green space, once renovations are complete, will add to the vitality of the community, benefiting students, nearby residents, businesses and visitors to downtown. Dominion is privileged to play a role in reconstruction of this historic urban setting.”
Also, a major gift from The Beirne Carter Foundation will support sustainability and safety improvements at the park.
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.
A small group of people were protesting the close of Monroe Park, Monday morning. One of the protesters, Tom Burkett, said the group’s main concerned is about the homeless people who will be kicked out of Monroe Park while it undergoes renovations.
“It’s November, mid-November. Where is everyone going to go?” Burkett said. “Has the University asked thorough questions of themselves about what they are going to do about the homeless population here at Monroe Park. I think we need some answers, you know, we need to know what’s going to happen to the homeless population.”
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.
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