Aug 15, 2022 - News

These are Richmond's worst eyesores

A photograph of the James Monroe building dominating Richmond's skyline.

The James Monroe Building: really tall and really ugly. Photo: Ned Oliver/Axios

Richmond's biggest eyesore also happens to be its tallest building, according to Axios Richmond readers.

State of play: We asked you to point out the ugliest buildings in our charming little city, and from dozens of suggestions, a clear consensus emerged.

  • You really hate the state-owned James Monroe Building — all 29 stories of it.

There's plenty to dislike.

  • The concrete has turned a grimy color.
  • The design looks dated in that bad 1970s way.
  • And it's always felt a little off balance, with that big parking garage podium designed to hold a second tower the state never built.

What you're saying: "I want to pluck it from the skyline like a friendly giant and restore balance and beauty. Start over," writes reader Bruce C.

Well, we have some good news: The state is considering demolishing the building, which currently houses the Department of Education, and building a new tower on Main Street across from the lottery building.

  • But the project is still in the early planning phase, and any final decision is at least a few years off, Department of General Services spokesperson Dena Potter tells Axios.
  • So, we guess just keep making sure your elected reps know how you feel about it.
A photo of boarded up buildings on Broad Street.
Boarded up on Broad. Photo: Ned Oliver/Axios
Dead block on Broad

You're also sick of seeing that dead block on Broad Street downtown.

We all know the one. The buildings have been boarded up for more than a decade, even as neighboring storefronts come back to life.

  • Almost all of them are owned by D.C.-based Douglas Development, which made the acquisitions in the mid-2000s.

What's next: Douglas Development didn't respond to an inquiry from Axios, but the company has slowly been redeveloping other properties it owns in the area, including the nearby Clay Market building.

  • "Our plan is to revitalize all of our assets on Broad Street. This is the kickoff," a company representative told BizSense in April.
A photo of a canal bed mostly empty of water and filled with weeds.
A very historic, very overgrown canal. Photo: Ned Oliver/Axios
The Kanawha Canal

OK, we'll admit, this one is a wild card, but reader Zane Bernard convinced us: The Kanawha Canal is, in a lot of places, an unsightly ditch.

No one is saying we should go and rip up the historic, earthen structure, which was conceived by George Washington, begun in 1785 and at one point stretched all the way to Botetourt County.

  • But maybe fix it up a little?

What you're saying: "I am willing to die on the hill that the Kanawha Canal should be renovated and restored to full function," writes Bernard.

  • He feels so strongly about it that he published his full note to us for all to ponder.
Honorable mention: second-place ugly

Y'all flagged a lot of blight. Here are some other suggestions that resonated.

A photo of a brick building collapsing into a city street.
This parking garage has been actively falling into the street for three years. Photo: Ned Oliver/Axios

That parking garage downtown at Sixth and Franklin streets that has been literally collapsing into the street for three years.

  • We're going to circle back to this one after we get some answers about what's going on.

All of Mayo Island.

  • Why has a beautiful island on the James been relegated to surface parking lots and an abandoned recycling center?
  • Reader Barry G. suggests it would be a great home for the Kickers.

And yes, the Coliseum is not looking so hot.

  • The city is actively working to find someone to demolish it and build something else.

Get more local stories in your inbox with Axios Richmond.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more

More Richmond stories

No stories could be found


Get a free daily digest of the most important news in your backyard with Axios Richmond.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more