Monroe Park, which has been closed for 21 months due to renovations, will have the fences on its perimeter taken down as a soft-reopening on Aug. 29, prior to an official ribbon-cutting at the end of September, the City of Richmond announced this month.
Plans for the renovations started back in 2006, with the $7 million project beginning upon the park’s closure in November 2016. Updated features include a new plaza with tables and chairs, repaved walkways, bike share stations, and water bottle and dog bowl refill stations.
Current VCU first and second-year students have yet to utilize Monroe Park for its walkways to class and leisure space. VCU Sophomore Tyrone Boyce is excited to finally be able to visit the park.
“I hope the park is worth the year-long wait we went through,” said Boyce. “I hope that not only does it provide a viable shortcut, but a place to hang out from time to time.”
Many improvements to the park dealt with outdated electrical and sewage upgrades as well as improved irrigation systems to help curb street flooding.
On top of those renovations, the city has planted 133 new trees in addition to more than 3,000 new plants with the hopes of keeping pests out of the park.
Many Richmonders protested the park’s closure due to the potential displacement of a portion of the city’s homeless population who depended on the green space between Belvidere and Laurel streets for shelter.
On December 6, 2015, two years before renovations began, a massive protest led by A Society Without A Name was held in Monroe Park. ASWAN, a homeless-led advocacy group working on issues that affect all homeless Richmonders, feared the closing of Monroe Park would severely limit the number of services provided locally for homeless individuals.
While the services provided from Monroe Park ceased once it began renovations, many local churches and organizations in Richmond stepped up and increased their support in the surrounding areas to help provide accommodation to those affected by the park’s closure.
VCU students have also played a part in helping out the local homeless population. In the past, groups like the Muslim Student Organization have taken care of the homeless in Richmond by providing food and other services.
When the park reopens, it will have designated times and places for groups to provide these services to the homeless.
Logan Reardon, Contributing Writer