The Monroe Park Master Plan:  A look at the costs

by Dave Thompson

This document is intended to be a quick reference guide for the costs of renovating Monroe Park, mostly using data from the  Monroe Park Master Plan (   This is a draft and may still contain some errors, please double check my numbers before you use them, and if you find anything wrong with this document, let me know so I can improve it.

What these (*$2.8 million*) numbers mean:

The costs listed in the construction budget do not reflect the share of the indirect costs (overhead, design costs, fees, contractor profit, etc.) that are a part of the budget. In order to try to give a more complete picture of what each park upgrade will cost, I’ve included figures that account for these indirect costs on a direct proportional basis. Since each upgrade will consume a different share of the indirect costs, these numbers will not reflect the total cost with 100% accuracy (though it will only overstate the cost of one upgrade by same amount as it understates another). Even with this acknowledged inaccuracy, these numbers are a more accurate way to talk about the overall cost of the park than the to only include the direct costs of each improvement.

Construction costs

The Budget includes approximately $9 million in construction costs for the entire renovation.  The renovation is broken down into 3 phases, with some special amenities to be added to the park on a piecemeal basis after the main renovations are completed.

  • The first phase would be the most expensive at 6.2 million dollars, including:
    • $1.3 million (*$2.8 million*) for demolishing the existing paths and installing new ones
    • $658,000 (*$1.4 million*) for landscaping upgrades
    • $601,000 (*$1.2 million*) for lighting and electrical upgrades
    • $154,000 (*$329,000*) for installing improving drainage in the park
    • $33,000 (*$70,500*) to purchase tables and chairs that would replace existing benches
    • $150,000 (*$321,000*) for a food kiosk.
  • Phase 2 is $1,051,000 for upgrades to the “Checkers Building” in the park
    • $351,000 (*$750,000*) to upgrade the grounds around the building, including $86,000 (*$184,000*) for a rubberized play surface
    • $71,000 (*$152,000*)for restoring the checkers building’s exterior and upgrading the restrooms
    • $13,500 (*$29,000*) for playground equipment
    • $52,200 (*$110,000*) for electrical installation and lighting
    • $2000 (*$4300*) for landscaping
  • Phase 3 is $623,000 for site amenities, including:
    • $151,000 (*$320,000*) for installing a splash park
    • $56,000 (*$120,000*) for 7 $8,000 information kiosks
    • $65,690 (*$140,000*)for lighting/electrical (not including the cost of lights for the petanque court, included below)
    • $11,565 (*$25,000*) for installing a petanque court
  • Also included in the plan are figures for various park amenities to be added after the first three main phases are completed:
    • $317,000 (*$678,000*) for a carousel
    • $43,000 (*$92,000*) for a temporary stage ($58,000 (*$124,000*) if you include the electrical work that is part of phase I)
    • $160,000 (*$342,000*) to buy an additional food kiosk, and 2 food carts
    • $17,000 (*$36,000*) for 8 checkers tables and a weather station.

Operating costs

The park’s operating costs are projected to be $765,000 for Year 1 and go to $1,065,000 in year 5

  • $150,000 (year one) to $170,000 a year (year five) to hire a full time park director, of which $40,000 a year ($3300 a month) slated to rent and maintain an office outside of the park for the director and their assistant.
    • The Director’s job does not appear to  include organizing events for the park, as there is a separate line item to hire a program manager/events staff at a cost of $55,000 for year one, growing to $65,000 in year five (assuming that the events themselves will be largely self supporting).
    • It also doesn’t include marketing the park beyond the first few years, as the year 5 budget includes $75,000 to hire a marketing manager.
  • The plan includes hiring full time private security guards with a budget of $205,000 in year one, and $250,000 in year 5. This is for basic park security and doesn’t include increased security needs for large events.
  • The plan includes $200,000 a year for keeping up the plants in the park.
  • The $40,000 budget for maintenance and repair
  • The $1,065,000 budget does not cover all of the expenses of running the park
    • As the private entity slated to run the park plans on enforcing rules that have been successfully challenged legally in the past, the possibility of costly litigation is real and there is no itemized provision in the budget for legal expenses. The accounting and legal costs for Bryant park, a similar sized park in NYC, were $321,000 in 2009.*
    • The master plan assumes that the cost of power for the park will be paid by the city, and this taxpayer funded cost that does not appear to be included in the budget.
    • The plan does not include itemized operating costs for the various amenities that the park will offer, it’s unclear if these costs are covered in the budget.
  • Richmond city parks as a whole cost roughly $14.6 million in yearly operating expenses for a park system that includes 2440 acres of maintained land. This works out to roughly $6000 a year in operating expenses per maintained acre for city parks. Breaking down the $1,065,000 proposed operating budget into the 8 acres of park inside the perimeter in Monroe Park represents an operating cost of $133,000 per acre, making it more than 20 times more expensive to operate than the rest of the park system on a per acre basis.




* I should amend that part to make it clearer.

The big one would be anti-panhandling rules they want to enforce. Broad anti-panhandling laws have been struck down on a first amendment basis a number of places. It’s not as clear how this would turn out because it’s a private foundation, but figuring this out in court would be expensive.

They haven’t specifically talked about banning feeding programs from the park, but Las Vegas’s anti-feeding law was struck down as unconstitutional in 07.

Music venues that play live music have been faced with civil suits in the past this might not be terribly likely for Monroe park, but if the live events they have planned end up disturbing people in the surrounding area, it could end up being another source of litigation.

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