Richmond city leaders plan to lease Monroe Park to energize area - - Jackson, MS

Richmond city leaders plan to lease Monroe Park to energize area

The city of Richmond is considering leasing out one of the city's historic parks to an outside group. City leaders say it's part of a 6 million dollar plan to breathe new life into Monroe Park. The final details are being worked out in a proposal that would create a public/private partnership.

It is the oldest public park in the city of Richmond. Now, a plan that's been years in the making to bring upgrades to Monroe Park could soon be finalized.

"I would like for it to be a little more vibrant," said Tina Roberts.

She works across the street at Grace and Holy Trinity.

"I see what's going on over there every day," Roberts said.

She's noticed a need for improvements.

"I think they need more light in there. I've been here for services at night and it's kind of dark in some parts of the park. That might deter people from coming in and walking around," she said.

That's one of several goals a non-profit group plans to address, part of a proposed partnership with the city of Richmond. The city has allocated 3 million to restoration efforts. The non-profit would match that.

"Improvement for an area that sounds like it needs it and someone else coming up with the money so that's a good thing," said Jim Mallon who also works nearby.

Organizers want to add bathrooms here, build a cafe, step up security, and address lighting concerns.

"I'm all for upgrading the city of Richmond," Mallon added.

But parts of the plan are drawing criticism. One of the concerns, will an outside group come in and create new rules that could kick out the homeless?

"Every weekend, every Sunday morning, Saturday morning, in the evenings, in the afternoons, I'd hate to see that disappear from here because our church is associated with feeding the homeless…I don't want the homeless to leave," Roberts said.

"It's important because the homeless don't have anywhere to go most of the time," Mallon said.

It's a delicate issue - organizers say they have heard loud and clear. This as the non-profit prepares to move forward, paying one dollar a year for a 30 year period to revive Monroe.

"It would be a lot better if there were more things going," Roberts said.

Alice Massie is with the non-profit spearheading the initiative. She compares it to a school building. She says when there's a new state of the art facility, everyone wants to attend. But when there's a dilapidated building, no one does. She said renovations would begin as soon as they raise the extra 3 million dollars.

"{I'm} in favor of leveraging public funds to double the investment and make the park welcoming to all," Council President Charles Samuels said.

The Council is expected to vote on the plan early next year.

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