City park to get facelift // Monroe Park is about to become a construction site — bringing a temporary end to its role as a shade tree haven for college students and the homeless.
Beginning next Monday, Nov. 14, the park is to be shut down and fenced off for at least a year and possibly as long as 18 months, according to the city, to make way for a $6 million facelift.
A centerpiece of the city since 1851 and once used as state fairgrounds and a military encampment, the park has been targeted for major improvement for at least 12 years.
The 8-acre park is bounded by Belvidere, Main, Laurel and Franklin streets.
Mayor Dwight C. Jones launched the long-awaited project Wednesday with representatives of Virginia Commonwealth University and the private Monroe Park Conservancy, which will manage the park after the work is done.
The city will be investing about half the money, mostly to dig up and replace the aging underground water, sewer, natural gas and electrical lines that serve VCU, The Fan and other neighborhoods in the Near West End.
The conservancy, a private group led by Alice McGuire Massie, has raised $3 million since 2013 to pay for additional improvements, ranging from new plantings and new walkways to improved lighting and creation of a tiny stream for racing small boats.
Other additions are to include movable tables and chairs, a game area for playing a ring-toss game called quoits and a lawn bowling game called pétanque, the conservancy has said.
The conservancy is seeking to raise an additional $1.5 million to redo the Checkers House in the park to provide public restrooms, space for a café and meetings along with a plaza for park visitors.
Still, the park’s overhaul will mean upheaval for the homeless and advocates for the homeless who offer meals, clothing and services to the needy at the park. There has been no announcement of where feeding programs plan to move.
From left, Alice M. Massie, president of the Monroe Park Conservancy; Dr. Michael Rao, Virginia Commonwealth University president; Mayor Dwight C. Jones; Hunter Applewhite, president of the Dominion Foundation; Charlie Agee, Altria Group’s director of corporate contributions and community involvement; and Rossie C. Hutcheson, president of the Beirne Carter Foundation, ceremonially water the grass at Monroe Park to kick off a $6 million renovation of the centrally located park.
Colorful foliage in South Side