City Council approves leasing of Monroe Park to Conservancy group

The park has a new caretaker for the next 30 years.

The City Council vote unanimously to approve the leasing of Monroe Park to the Monroe Park Conservancy Group. The group is made up of lawyers, VCU representatives, Mayor Dwight C. Jones and other city officials, and the conservancy’s president, Alice Massie.

This also signals the defeat of Mo Karnage’s (local anarchist) attempt to lease the park.

The conservancy will pay rent of $1 a year for a 30-year term. The lease will take effect as soon as both parties sign it, and the renovation is expected to be completed by next year.

The lease proposal for the park, which lies in the heart of the city near Virginia Commonwealth University’s main academic campus, has sparked debate about public oversight of a high-profile public space.

The renovation plan calls for replacing the asphalt walkways with crushed stone paths, leveling off the park by raising the paths to the same elevation as the grass, installing better lighting, and converting the Checkers House to a café with new bathrooms.

Critics of the plan felt the conservancy would have too much authority over setting policies for the park and worried about what it might mean for the homeless people who gather in the park.

Some council members were also uneasy with the lease, which led to the second park resolution passed Monday.

The resolution that the council added include: veto power over the proposed use policies, discussions for potential lease amendments to ensure more public engagement with park users and nearby neighborhoods, and council member who represents the park area (2nd District) wants to be on the conservancy’s board of directors, he or she must be allowed to serve.

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Richard Hayes

When Richard isn’t rounding up neighborhood news, he’s likely watching soccer or chasing down the latest and greatest craft beer.

Notice: Comments that are not conducive to an interesting and thoughtful conversation may be removed at the editor’s discretion.

  1. I’m admittedly out of the loop on this, so my comment is regrettably an uninformed one. But, I share the concerns in the quote about about displacing Richmond’s homeless who either call the park (their temporary) home, or visit it as a source for food and resources. I run through the park a lot on early weekend mornings – there’s a lot of warmth on those faces and I hope they are considered with dignity throughout the lease.

  2. Scott Burger on said:

    So the City has privatized its oldest public park, while still being on the hook for most of its costs. The supposed initial rational was that the City was not able to maintain it (yet the City helped pay for a Redskins football camp and wants to do the same for a new minor league baseball stadium), but let’s be perfectly clear, this was about exclusion. Neighborhood representation is gone. I guess the Conservancy will hand the Checkers concession to one of their restaurant pals. Corporate cronyism at its worst. When will VCU start cutting down trees? Sure, they say they won’t now, but they tried to do so in the past, and I expect they will do so again at some point in the future. I don’t care how much they Disneyland it up, the public has lost something very important.

  3. catherineillian on said:

    I don’t know about you, but having been to Bryant Park in NYC which in 1988 was leased to a nonprofit and has benefitted from years of investment– I am happy as a clam to have private investment in the park. It really does benefit everyone
    here is more on that park

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