One step closer to a new Monument Avenue after planning commission votes

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RICHMOND, Va. (WIRC) — More than a year since monuments were removed in Richmond, the debate continues over what to do with the remaining pedestals and what will go in their places.

The Robert E. Lee monument is still tied up in court and the other statues are still at a secret city-owned property. After a planning commission meeting on Tuesday, Richmond is getting closer to deciding what to do.

Last year, the city council voted to remove the full monuments — not just the leaders towering over the Avenue. On Tuesday, councilwoman Katherine Jordan said that’s still the intention. “We’ve decided to remove the states. The statue is the metal and the base,” she said.

The following items were on the agenda for Tuesday after a late-June meeting was cut short due to technical difficulties:

  • Confederate Cannon #1
  • Confederate Cannon #2
  • Jefferson Davis Monument
  • Stonewall Jackson Monument
  • Matthew F. Maury Monument
  • Fitzhugh Lee Cross, Joseph Bryan Monument, William Carter Wickham Monument and all of the pedestals

During Richmond’s planning committee meeting Tuesday, members procedurally moved the process forward by voting to give the city no recommendation on most of what had been proposed, explaining that it’s out of their authority anyway.

“Council is the sole arbiter of that,” the committee chair said.

The Urban Design Committee, which presented a report to the planning committee, had recommended that the Jefferson Davis Memorial pedestal be replaced with grass and plants. A similar recommendation was made for the Matthew F. Maury Monument pedestal.

Some committee members did vote to recommend removing A.P. Hill and Stonewall Jackson fully to help with traffic and decrease car accidents at those intersections.

The VMFA will work with the city to reimagine a new Monument avenue. A representative with VMFA said during the meeting that he agrees with the city’s plan to remove the pedestals. He said they could ultimately put the pedestals back — if that’s what’s decided later on.

However, some groups say more public input is needed before anything more is done. “They’ve been sitting there for a year. Why don’t we make a thoughtful process to envision them or remove them,” said Ashley Hawkins, Executive Director of Studio Two Three in an interview with 8News Tuesday.

Hawkins said for a while, she wasn’t even aware that the planning commission was taking the issue up this summer. She said it felt like the city was steam-rolling through the process when there should be a discussion of whether or not to somehow use the pedestals in the reimagined Monument Avenue.

“We want to make sure that if people want to consider those spaces for healing and transformative dialogues that they can voice their opinion to the city and that’s factored in,” said Kate Fowler, Studio Two Three’s development director.

Fowler and Hawkins said if the public decides to move forward with removing the pedestals, that’s okay. They just want more conversations to be had about it.

In late June, Hawkins sent a letter to the city that asked them to slow down and hold in-person input meetings before doing anything else.

“I think it’s incredibly important that Richmonders continue to be a part of that process moving forward,” she said.

“Over the summer of 2020, Richmond citizens rapidly recontextualized several of the monument’s bases, transforming them into powerful platforms for shared voice and civic demonstration,” Hawkins wrote in an email. “We want a process that honors these efforts and envisions these platforms as sites for healing, historical recontextualization, and/or spaces for new works of art.”

8News asked Mayor Levar Stoney’s office if he still supports removing all of the pedestals.

“The Mayor thinks Richmonders deserve a clean slate. The pedestals are considered part of the monuments, and he supports finishing the job we started a year ago,” his spokesperson said.

On Tuesday, the VMFA representative promised they will get the community involved in the process of reimagining Monument avenue.

This is a developing story. Stay with 8News for updates.

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