Committee recommends leasing out Monroe Park - NBC12.com - Richmond, VA News

Committee recommends leasing out Monroe Park

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RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) -

Richmond's Monroe Park is a step closer to getting a multi-million dollar makeover, as a committee recommended City Council approve a plan to let a non-profit group to take over operations.

Supporters say it would help breathe new life into the city's oldest park.

Talks of restoring Monroe Park have been circulating for quite some time. Now that a plan is actually making progress, many agree the park could use an upgrade. but some are asking at what cost?

Crushed stone paths, a cafeteria with new bathrooms, and improved lighting are a few of the enhancements the Monroe Park Conservancy group wants to see here right away.

"The biggest thing being addressed is from a safety and security standpoint. The infrastructure there supports wiring that was first put in place for lighting in the 1920s," said Scott Ukrop.

He is part of the non-profit the city is considering leasing Monroe Park to in a public-private partnership.

"It's exciting to be at this stage," he said.

After months of planning,  a city committee recommended Tuesday - council members should support the 6 million dollar renovation project.     But not everyone is excited.

"There's a lot of anxiety," said Kat McNeal with Food not Bombs.

She believes the group would kick out the homeless and place limitations on its weekly feeding program.

"[The homeless] are concerned the Monroe Park Conservancy is going to send the police on them simply for existing in the park," McNeal said.

Ukrop says it's not about exclusion, but safety and accountability.

"Not restrict that but put the proper permitting and things. If people want to do a feeding program, just make sure they know the proper procedures, not just for food distribution but also for clean up afterwards," he said.

"We've been feeding people for 20 years. If we had been paying a $35 permit fee every week, it would be more than $40,000. We just can't do it," McNeal insisted.

She says she actually wants to see enhancements but wants more public input in the renovation process.

"Take a place that everybody's aware of and knows about but make it more beautiful and a draw for the city and not just a place your drive by and apologize for," Ukrop said.

Now the proposal heads to city council Monday to determine where to go from here. Under the lease, the non-profit would pay an annual rent of $1 for a 30-year period.

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