Proposed Amphitheater Pits Folk Festival Against War Memorial 

Festival organizers say the growing event might not go on if their plans don't get approved.

click to enlarge A rendering of the proposed amphitheater. - VENTURE RICHMOND
  • Venture Richmond
  • A rendering of the proposed amphitheater.

The state’s war dead, it turns out, might not be the biggest fans of folk music.

A board member of the Virginia War Memorial has joined opponents of a proposed new amphitheater that would serve as the main stage of Venture Richmond’s annual folk festival. The memorial sits just above the grassy slope that would be used for seating -- meaning it would more or less be blasted by music when the venue is used for a performance.

“The potential for noise and parking congestion from the proposed amphitheater would adversely impact the solemnity and dignity of the Virginia War Memorial,” writes War Memorial board of trustees member Delegate Richard Anderson in a letter to the city planning commission.

Anderson, a retired 30-year Air Force colonel and chair of the General Assembly Military and Veteran caucus, is urging the planning commission to block approval. He emphasized that he was speaking for himself and not the Virginia War Memorial.

The planning commission will hear the issue Monday at a meeting scheduled for 1:30 p.m. at City Hall. The Urban Design Committee, which voted on the issue last week, forwarded the proposal to the commission without a recommendation after a 4-4 tie vote.

Venture Richmond is attempting to rally supporters to the meeting, saying if the planning commission doesn’t approve the amphitheater it might be forced to cancel future folk festivals entirely. The organization didn’t respond to an email from Style seeking comment. Lisa Sims, Venture Richmond’s deputy director, told RVANews that the festival’s future is “a definite uncertainty,” because, beginning next year, the land the group has been using for the main stage will no longer be available and no other suitable locations exist in the area.

The amphitheater would sit at the base of what’s now a parking lot for visitors to Belle Isle off of Tredegar Street and next to the new Second Street connector.

Neighborhood advocates and historical preservationists have taken a dim view of the proposal. They worry about noise and about plans to alter a canal surveyed and designed by George Washington that intersects the seating area.

“This is basically very poor planning to damage George Washington’s canal in order to aim Richmond's loudest outdoor stage directly at the Virginia War Memorial,” says Charles Pool.

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