City closer to acquiring ROC church real estate


18 acres owned by the ROC on the Southside may be purchased by Richmond for a future park. (Photo by Burl Rolett.)

The city’s plans to buy land owned by a Richmond megachurch took a step forward Monday.

The Richmond Planning Commission unanimously approved the city’s proposed purchase of 18 acres on Old Warwick Road from the Richmond Outreach Center, commonly known as the ROC, for development of a park and community center.

The property includes a pair of baseball fields, a gym, soccer field and skate park. The site sits at the corner of Old Warwick Road and Carnation Street, about a mile west of the ROC’s 120,000-square-foot mega-church at 5500 Midlothian Turnpike.

While details of the plans are scant, Norman Merrifield, the city’s parks director of parks, recreation and community facilities, said the purchase would cost about $1.7 million and improvements would come to roughly $1.9 million.

“It’s about a $3.6 million process,” he said.

Merrifield added that the ROC parcels have a handful of existing assets that the parks department could rent out, including a single-family home and a classroom building. The ROC has indicated that it would be interested in leasing back a maintenance garage on-site, Merrifield said.

At Monday’s meeting, City Council member Kathy Graziano, Director of Planning Mark Olinger and principal planner Lory Markham all called the Midlothian Turnpike an underserved area of Richmond. Olinger referred to it as a “Middle Earth” of the city.

Merrifield said the idea of a public park in the area has been around for several years. He added that the Broad Rock sports complex further southeast near Broad Rock Road was another potential site for the center, but the ROC location made sense for its proximity to Midlothian Turnpike.

“If you can’t get to it, can’t see it, don’t know that it’s there, it isn’t going to be helpful,” Merrifield said.

The plan was pushed forward Monday in a pair of ordinances that next must get through Richmond City Council. The first will authorize the city’s purchase of the land.

The second will bump up about $1.58 million appropriated for the next fiscal year to the current fiscal budget. That will fund the land purchase and improvements.

City Council is scheduled to vote on the project at its meeting on May 12.

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John Smith

The city needs to pave the Richmond streets before they start spending money on parks…….