RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Richmond’s Planning Commission voted to adopt the city’s temporary plan to fill the former Lee Circle on Monument Avenue with $100,000 worth of plants until a long-term proposal has been put forward.
The space within the traffic circle formerly belonged to the Robert E. Lee monument before becoming the focal point for protester demonstrations after the police killing of George Floyd.
Brian Bills, a nearby resident who moved to Richmond two years ago — in the midst of the George Floyd protests — told 8News that the space holds an important role of remembrance for a lot of people, including himself.
“There was someone giving a political speech at the base of the statue,” Bills recalled. “This space used to be such an active and meaningful community space, one where Richmonders across race and class would gather and connect.”
Now, the traffic circle at 1700 Monument Avenue is gated and prohibits entry to the public.
“When these black fences went up, we were told they were a temporary measure,” Bills said. “It has now been many months.”
Members of the city’s Urban Design Committee and Planning Commission each said they back the removal of the fences put around the area. However, the committee recommended the landscaping proposal be rejected stating that it doesn’t fit the culture of Monument Avenue.
Another resident 8News spoke with, Bill Galachy, told 8News that although he likes the temporary plan, he is skeptical of the city’s ability to maintain another planting project.
“It would be wonderful, but I’m sorry the city just doesn’t have the resources or the knowledge or the will to get it done,” Galachy said. “Let’s just make it a fountain or some piece of art that’s just there and you ride by and look at it.”
Bills said he wants to see things the way they were when he first came to Richmond.
“Have cookouts, have basketball games, have memorials, just like it was before,” he said.
At the Planning Commission’s Monday meeting, some neighbors said the circle wasn’t meant to be a public space. They said that people being allowed to gather is what led to protests in 2020, and they don’t want it to happen again.
A specific timeline of the landscaping project has not yet been released. Stay with 8News for all of the latest updates.