Although it is only presented as a temporary solution, the City of Richmond has submitted a site plan for new landscaping that will replace the empty field and fence around Lee Circle on Monument Avenue.
The plans, according to city records, calls for the planting of small trees and shrubs similar to what has been installed on other roundabouts where Confederate monuments have been removed in the past two years.
The project is expected to cost around $100,000 with work expected to begin later this month.
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State officials originally placed the fence around the former location of the Robert E. Lee statue in January 2021, about six months after the then government. Ralph Northam and Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney ordered the removal of Confederate statues from the historic avenue.
The fence remained after the state took down Lee’s statue a year ago.
It has left some people distraught after activists and local residents turned what many saw as a Confederate-banned shrine into a public gathering place with community gardens, a makeshift basketball court and musical and artistic performances. during the 2020 protest movement.
While the movement was largely spurred by the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, local residents informally renamed Lee Circle after Marcus-David Peters, a 24-year-old teacher who was killed by police of Richmond in 2018.
The Northam administration in 2020 proposed plans to “reinvent” Monument Avenue and Lee Circle with $10 million in state funding pledged, but the initiative was stalled after the state transferred ownership of the circle and the Lee monument to the city last winter, days before Governor Glenn Youngkin was sworn in.
“The larger, more permanent process to reinvent Monument Ave has not begun, and we don’t have a timeline for that work at the time of this writing,” 2nd District Councilwoman Katherine Jordan wrote Friday in her weekly district newsletter. “By previous communication from [the Department of Public Works]once the landscaping work is complete, the state will remove their fences.
Planning documents say the city intends to begin landscaping work at Lee Circle later this month once the plan is approved by the Planning committee and planning commission.
The committee is due to review the plans on Thursday. The plans will then be submitted to the Planning Commission for a final vote on September 19.
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It remains unclear what will happen to the monuments that have been removed. City officials have also released little information about its long-term plans for Monument Avenue and Lee Circle.
“Remember, the city has always said we would take a breather before engaging the community in meaningful conversations about reimagining the circle,” city spokeswoman Petula Burks said. “That hasn’t changed.”
In December, the city announced it would transfer the Lee Monument and the rest of the statues to the Black History Museum and Cultural Center of Virginia, which will work with the Valentine Museum to determine what to do with them.
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The city is also still working to remove the AP Hill monument at the intersection of Hermitage Road and Laburnum Avenue. To complicate matters, Hill is buried in the monument, which means a special court order is needed to move him.
The city sued to donate the monument to the Black History Museum and move the buried remains to a cemetery in Culpeper, but a group claiming to be indirect descendants of the Confederate officer claimed the monument.
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