$6 million in renovations planned for Monroe Park

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Major changes are coming to Richmond's Monroe Park. The city is about to embark on a $6.2 million project to renovate the 7-acre site in the heart of downtown and the Virginia Commonwealth University campus.

City leaders and a group of citizens say they are looking to make Monroe Park more open and family-friendly.

Monroe Park was bought by the city in 1851 and it is considered Richmond's oldest park. During the Civil War it was used for military camps and a hospital. It has also been the home of the state fair the city's first baseball games.

"1904 was the hey-day for this park and we definitely wanted to look back and reference the past," said Richmond City Council member Charles Samuel.

Architects for the firm in Manchester, 3 North have come up with a 20-by-20 foot model of the vision. "We're trying to deliver a park that was going to be safe and clean and secure," said architect David Rau.

There will be new electrical wiring, drainage, new seating areas, lighting and trash bins. The checker's house may be turned into a restaurant or coffee shop. There are plans to build a new fountain -- mimicking the James River.

"It's actually set up so that you could run boat races down the length of the water feature with little boats that could be purchased at the roundhouse, said Rau. "We will have new open areas that could be used for Frisbee and soccer and other sorts of games."

The firm has created a game area and a place for summertime movies and outdoor concerts.

"The structures on the park itself will be refurbished. Maybe have a restaurant in it," said Richmond Chief Administrative Officer Byron Marshall.

The city has set aside $1.1 million for the infrastructure. VCU has offered it's support and the Monroe Park Advisory Council will create a non profit to help raise the rest of the money.

"It's a fantastic example of the public and private sectors working together," said Samuels.  "You're going to have a place where everybody feels welcome, be it a family with kids or a student in between classes or just somebody that's there to enjoy watching the fountain."

The plans have already been reviewed by Mayor Dwight Jones and his staff, and the planning commission. Construction could begin in 12 months.

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