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Richmond unveils plans for former Lee Statue plot

lee circle plan.PNG

Richmond city officials have drawn up designs for the plot of land where the Robert E. Lee statue once stood on Monument Avenue.

The site plan includes flowers, grasses and small trees – alongside a labyrinth of mulch pathways. It still needs approval by a city planning commission.

Many community members who were a part of reclaiming the Lee Monument site in the summer of 2020 aren’t pleased with the designs.

Standing in front of the empty green space today, Allan-Charles Chipman says the landscaping proposal is just a distraction from a more robust community conversation.

“Green space is needed," Chipman says. "But as someone who studied family therapy and marriage counseling, I think it’s more so like when a relationship’s trust has been breached and one partner, typically the man, is just like ‘I’m going to buy you flowers baby and let’s talk about something else!’” 

Before the Lee Statue was removed, an engaged group of people had set up memorials to victims of police violence around the base. In the roundabout there was a garden, a basketball hoop, and often a grill.

Alice Miniom says it used to be one of her favorite places on earth before city officials cleared it out and set up barriers.

“It felt like something was kind of taken from us, like from the heart of our community and everything that we built there that was so beautiful," Miniom explains. "A lot of us really, really want it to become an autonomous space again.” 

Many suggest the most important element is that people can continue to gather there and some worry the densely landscaped plan is purposefully designed to prevent just that.

Mallory Noe-Payne is Radio IQ's Richmond reporter and bureau chief. She's covered policy and politics from the state capital since 2016. She was a 2020-2021 recipient of the Fulbright Young Journalist Award. She spent a year in Munich, Germany researching memory, justice, and how a society can collectively confront its sins. Her Virginia-based coverage of home healthcare workers, voting rights, and Richmond’s Slave Trail have won national news awards.