Monroe Park opened last week after nearly two years of renovations

Monroe Park reopened last week after a 22-month renovation with a ribbon cutting ceremony by Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney (center). Photo by Jon Mirador

Logan Reardon
Staff Writer

Monroe Park Conservancy held a ribbon-cutting ceremony Thursday for the grand reopening of Monroe Park after a 22-month wait due to renovations and weather delays.

Despite another rainy day, the ceremony went on as planned. Monroe Park Conservancy President Alice Massie, Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney and VCU President Michael Rao spoke at the event.

Massie said it seemed to her and many others that Monroe Park would never open, but that all changed when the fences finally came down Sept. 24.

“For more than a decade we’ve worked together with the city, VCU and the community to make this dream a reality,” Massie said. “And now that we’re here, it feels awesome. It’s amazing.”

Massie said Rao and the VCU senior leadership team have supported and advocated for the park’s renovations since the beginning of the project’s conception. Monroe Park Conservancy helmed the renovation project in partnership with the city — Richmond agreed to front approximately half of the project’s $6.3 million price tag; the rest came from the conservancy’s fundraising efforts.

“We much appreciate VCU’s support, their leadership and especially their vision for the future in taking care of the park,” Massie said.

Despite the park’s new technological improvements, Stoney said the premise of Monroe Park has stayed the same since 1851.

“The leaders at the time recognized the importance of providing a place in the center of our city where residents can relax, kick back, take a stroll, be with their families and enjoy what this urban greenspace has to offer,” Stoney said. “That idea is just as important today as it was back then.”

Rao said he has looked forward to seeing the completion of the park’s renovations and that the facility will be beneficial to VCU students.

“There really is not an angle from this park that does not look at Virginia Commonwealth University, and therefore, we are recipients of a lot of this beauty,” Rao said. “And for that, we are very, very grateful.”

When sunny weather rolled around to Richmond Friday, Monroe Park was filled with students and other community members. VCU junior Gina Cutler was one of many upperclassmen who had to wait almost two years for the renovations to finish. She said while the renovations are an improvement to the park, the long wait for it to reopen was detrimental to VCU students.

“It was a plain park, but now it feels more lively,” Cutler said. “It was still a good place for students to have so it’s a shame it took so long for them to rebuild it.”

Cutler also said there was anger among upperclassmen when the park’s opening was continuously delayed.

“It was annoying waiting for it to be rebuilt,” Cutler said.

VCU freshman Raatib Rahman said that, so far, he likes the park.

“It’s a lot better coming from class-to-class because sometimes I have to walk all the way to [T. Edward Temple Building]. Before, I’d just go around. Now, I can just cut through the park,” Rahman said. “Overall, I’m really glad that it’s open, because for the longest time it’s just been under construction. But now it’s open and free to the public and I feel like it’s a good environment for people to just chill out.”

Rahman said the landscaping of the park is nice, but the 22-month renovation period was too long for what the park has offered in its opening week. While walking his dog through Monroe Park, he said he feels a dog park is the biggest thing missing in the green space.

“You have a lot of people walking their dogs here and — if they had 22 months and they knew that people would want to walk their dogs here — they could have at least built a fence,” Rahman said.

Rahman said he sees himself coming to Monroe Park a lot while he’s on campus.

“My dorm building is right there, so it’s just a nice walk across,” Rahman said. “If I lived somewhere else, I’d still be coming here. It’s just a nice place to relax.”

Even though the park is open, several new additions are still under construction. The Dominion Energy pavilion, VCU Police substation and a coffee shop will open in the coming weeks.

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