RICHMOND, Va. -- At least 100 people gathered in Richmond Tuesday night to discuss plans for an urban plaza at the intersection of Adams and Broad Street, which would feature a monument in honor of entrepreneur Maggie L. Walker.
The proposal, sponsored by Mayor Dwight Jones, suggests closing off the section of Brook Road between Adams and Broad Streets to build the plaza.
Walker is best known for being the first woman to charter and serve as president of a bank in the US. Her home in the 100 block of E. Leigh Street in Jackson Ward is a federally protected National Historic Site.
Melvin Jones Jr. said he’s been working to get the statue built since 2008 as the Alumni President of Maggie L. Walker High School. City council passed a resolution to support the monument in November of 2010.
“It meant a lot for me to get this done for Maggie Walker and the city of Richmond,” Jones said. “I believe it will bring a lot of tourism to Richmond.”
The City of Richmond’s Public Art Commission, Public Artist Toby Mendez is the sculptor for the Maggie walker project.
“Why do I want to be a part of this? The passion of this crowd and the importance of this story, I’m a story teller and this is a great story to tell,” Mendez said.
“She was a pioneer, not just as a woman, not just as a black woman, but as somebody in this community,” he added.
One of the focal points of Tuesday’s meeting was a rare old oak tree that stands where her statue would go. Some voiced concerns and don’t want the tree to come down. Others said the tree is causing infrastructure problems and needs to be cut.
"The tree roots are going to eventually get into the sewer lines. The way they showed the sewer line on the screen tonight, that tree is going to damage a lot of stuff, it's already damaging stuff, damaging the sidewalk and the curb," said Jones.
He said he would like to see the tree cut down and some pieces from the tree used to commemorate Maggie Walker.
No decision was made at Tuesday’s meeting.