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Monroe Park reopens following renovations

City and university leaders celebrate park reopening, host ribbon-cutting for Gladding Residence Center.

Visitors gather around the Checkers House in Monroe Park. (Photo by Pat Kane, University Public A...
Visitors gather around the Checkers House in Monroe Park. (Photo by Pat Kane, University Public Affairs)

Monroe Park, one of Richmond’s oldest and most historically significant public spaces, has reopened following an extensive renovation.

The 7.5-acre park, located at the east end of Virginia Commonwealth University’s Monroe Park Campus, had been closed since November 2016. The city owns the park and leases it to the nonprofit Monroe Park Conservancy.

The $6 million renovation — $3 million of which was raised through a private fundraising campaign — is the first comprehensive modernization of the park since its creation in 1851.

The park’s features include the restored central fountain that dates to 1906, repaved walkways, new benches and 132 new trees and permeable pavers at each entryway. The Checkers House in the center of the park will be home to a coffee and sandwich shop and a satellite station for VCU Police. A new pavilion and plaza near the Altria Theater will be available for weddings and other events, and the park’s electrical, sewage and irrigation systems were upgraded. 

“Everyone at VCU will benefit from this magnificently restored Monroe Park, which now includes the necessary infrastructure to meet the needs of our 21st-century community,” said VCU President Michael Rao, Ph.D. “Generations of Richmonders have used and loved this park, including VCU faculty, staff, students and alumni. For many, it has been part of their educational experience.” 

The Checkers House in the center of Monroe Park will be home to a coffee and sandwich shop. (Photo by Pat Kane, University Public Affairs)
Click to view slideshow. The Checkers House in the center of Monroe Park will be home to a coffee and sandwich shop. (Photo by Pat Kane, University Public Affairs)

The park’s reopening follows the August completion of another nearby construction project after VCU opened its 12-story Gladding Residence Center across West Main Street. On Thursday, Rao and Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney participated in ribbon-cutting events at both locations. 

Gladding, VCU’s newest residence hall, opened its doors to more than 1,470 first-year students earlier this fall. It replaced the former GRC I and II residence halls. The space is designed to build community, Rao said Thursday.

“It's so important because ultimately you are shaping people's lives — you're shaping the ways in which we live together,” he said.

Stoney agreed. 

“This is a work of art,” he said, standing in the building’s lobby and gesturing to the north windows facing Monroe Park. “And whether it's the park or the sort of investment that VCU has made on the medical campus downtown, or here, this is a continuous stream of progress that I think are a demonstration of VCU's contributions to Richmond.”