A Brief History of the Monroe Park Advisory Council (To be clear, there was also a Monroe Park Advisory Council in the nineties which was started to address a request to remove many of the trees in Monroe Park according to member Napi Ippolito. The master plan they adopted was never really considered viable by […]
A Brief History of the Monroe Park Advisory Council
(To be clear, there was also a Monroe Park Advisory Council in the nineties which was started to address a request to remove many of the trees in Monroe Park according to member Napi Ippolito. The master plan they adopted was never really considered viable by the city at the time and consequently never “got legs” as the current one has).
The year is 2002. I was serving as president of the Oregon Hill Neighborhood Association (OHNA) in its second year of existence. We had worked with the City in rezoning Oregon Hill to R7 that year which prevented proposed apartment complexes from being built on the Hill. The neighborhood was much more in favor of single family home ownership. Oregon Hill had just lost a contentious battle with the City the previous year over rezoning the property owned by Dominion Va Power on the river bank below Oregon Hill to build a high rise tower (which has not been built at this time). Oregon Hill had also won a battle with the City over an effort by the City to sell one of our Parks (now called Pleasants Park) to a “well known” developer as surplus. During this period, corruption was present at City Hall with two City Council members later serving prison terms. It was a different form of government in the city then, without a strong mayor but with a strong City Manager, a man named Calvin Jamison.
I’ll never forget the day two City Park employees (who are still great friends) came into my music store and asked if the Oregon Hill Neighborhood Association would support a new proposed policy (initiated by City Manager Jamison) which would essentially turn Monroe Park into a parking facility for dozens of buses, cars and city trucks. My jaw dropped. I had enjoyed times in this Park since I was a 14 year old kid growing up in the west end and riding the bus downtown to events like Kool Aid Sundays and other concerts/gatherings in the Park. Springsteen played there as did Jerry Lee Lewis, Its a Beautiful Day, Cold Blood, Mercy Flight, Bill Blue Band and many many others. The parking proposal made me sick to my stomach but I said I would bring it up to OHNA. The Neighborhood Association unanimously opposed it. I made plans to host a Town Hall Meeting/Presentation at St Andrew’s Church auditorium on Idlewood with the help of my neighbors. Both Maura Meinhardt and Charles Pool worked hard to help get the meeting organized and publicized.
The meeting was a success. Among those in attendance were Councilman Bill Pantele (whose district included Monroe Park), as well as future MPAC members John Peters, Turk Sties (also head of the Near West Team), Mike Rohde (husband of future MPAC member Pat Daniels) and many others. Councilman Pantele, who I cant say enough good things about, took the ball under his arm, rejected the Parking Lot scenario and in the upcoming year formed the Monroe Park Advisory Council from representatives of the surrounding communities to include Oregon Hill, Carver and the Fan District and VCU. Members were approved by City Council and meetings began sometime in late 2003 or 2004.
In 2005, both Pat Daniels and I received awards from the City. Mine was for Community Mobilization, an award I am very proud of. Pat has accomplished much as a volunteer and really deserved her award.
It took until 2008 to come up with a final master plan after a well publicized and well attended Charette. I would be lying if I said there weren’t contentious debates during the MPAC meetings but agreements were reached. The even hand which really brought the best out of the group was Park employee and group facilitator Larry Miller. Rachel Flynn of the City’s Planning Department was also a great Champion of the park as were Tyler Potterfield and the many staff members at 3 North. Consultants were hired to write down the master plan which was adopted by MPAC, the planning commission and urban design committee. Many hours of work was put in by these citizens and city employees to give Monroe Park a much needed renovation.
I am very proud of this team effort- truly a grassroots, citizen based effort to make Richmond’s Oldest Municipal Park, a Park filled with so much history, into a clean and wonderful facility, renovated with sensitivity to its Historic background. The public was always welcome at MPAC meetings as well as the Charette. Monroe Park, once renovated (new lights, redone pathways, and much much more) will be a welcoming facility for ALL Richmond residents and a shining jewel for ALL Richmonders to keep and enjoy.
Many thanks are due to all members of the Monroe Park Advisory Council and 2nd District council person Charles Samuels who are working so hard to see this great plan enacted- something which should have been done many years ago. And to Bill Pantele whose dream will soon pay dividends to the Citizens of Richmond.
Charles Todd Woodson
November 14, 2010.