The revitalized circle on Monument Avenue is 99% complete.
More than 6,000 plants and 28 trees were installed in the Richmond space that was once the home of the statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee, with only a small portion of the landscaping project left to go.
It has been a long journey for the circle at the intersection of Monument and Allen avenues, with further evolution to potentially follow. The former Lee Circle served as a major hub for protesters in 2020 after the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police.
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Eventually, the Virginia Department of General Services installed concrete barricades in June 2020 and 8-foot fences in January 2021 around the circle. State officials said the barriers were put in place to protect the safety of demonstrators as well as of the Lee statue.
Last October, the Planning Commission approved a temporary landscaping plan despite objections from the Urban Design Committee. The city said that to ensure worker safety, the fencing would not be removed until the plan was completed.
YME Landscape is waiting on the barriers to be removed so that the crew can make final touch-ups such as re-mulching the edges. Gary said the underside of the barriers could reveal graffiti and debris that need to be cleaned up as well.
“I’m really not involved on that end,” Gary said. “I’m just kind of monitoring whatever they need me to do, and then I’ll come in and do my last little bit.”
Throughout this spring and summer, YME Landscape has endured the ups and downs of handling a large number of plants. The crew ran into occasional floral hurdles like plant shrinkage and watering issues, but Gary said it was nothing out of the ordinary.
“With 6,000 plants, you have 6,000 personalities,” Gary said. “With the sprinkler system, I had to work out the kinks. It takes a while to get everything to line up and settle in, just normal stuff.”
The plants and trees remain the only planned features of the spruced-up site. No lights, benches or walking paths are in the works, making the space more of a botanical garden for floral gazing than walking.
The last major step of the updated circle is the removal of the barriers and fencing. Gianni Snidle, a spokesperson for Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney, said that step could come as soon as this week.
In the meantime, members of the YME Landscape team say they’re looking toward to getting out of the sun that has beat down during a brutal summer.
“It was hot out there, I ain’t gonna lie,” Gary said. “But we had a tent, so we just kind of worked under there and drank Gatorade, just trying to stay as hydrated as possible.”