Historic Capitol Square Grounds Integrates Fast-Track Security Enhancements

In advance of the 2022 Inauguration Day, safe, resilient, and historical enhancements were made to improve this iconic site.

March 15, 2022

Members of the project team stand in front of the newly constructed Virginia State Capitol security gate.

In advance of Virginia’s 2022 Gubernatorial Inauguration, VHB and Commonwealth Architects delivered a fast-track project to enhance security measures at Capitol Square, the public area surrounding the Virginia State Capitol. Designed by Thomas Jefferson in 1788, the Virginia State Capitol sits on Shockoe Hill in Richmond, Virginia, surrounded by one of the few remaining green spaces in the city. Security enhancements at Capitol Square included the installation of high-security retractable bollards, new pedestrian and vehicular gates, accessibility improvements, a granite seat wall, guard house, and new lighting. The new features align with the master plan goals established for this iconic site that includes a safe, resilient, and historic space for visitors and residents alike.

The site required security upgrades due to uncontrolled access on North Drive—a roadway behind the Capitol Building that ends at the front entrance of the Virginia Executive Mansion. VHB’s civil/transportation engineers and landscape architects worked alongside the Capitol Preservation Council to design a security entrance gate that mimicked similar characteristics of the original Sabbaton Fence and Gate that previously sat on the east side of 9th Street. By using the below photo from 1865 as their only reference point, VHB’s landscape architects designed the iron gate and new stone columns to model the historic structure.

1865 historic photograph that shows the fence and gate details that the newly constructed one was modeled after.
John Reekie, “Richmond, Virginia. St. Paul's Episcopal Church. (Grace Street),” c. 1865, Library of Congress, LC-B815- 937

“With a building as high profile and significant as the Virginia Capitol, it was necessary to incorporate additional security features for the safety and protection of visitors, Richmond residents, and Government officials, while ensuring equitable access along the adjacent 9th Street corridor on this vital multimodal corridor,” said Chris Daily, Project Manager and Transportation Engineer at VHB.

Adjacent to the Virginia State Capitol is the General Assembly Building (GAB), currently under construction and anticipated to be complete in late 2022. In addition to providing site civil engineering and stormwater management for the GAB, VHB was also instrumental in creating safe, secure, and ADA compliant connectivity between the GAB and the Capitol for future representatives and delegates who may walk between the two. VHB’s landscape architects also designed ADA accessibility from the northside of the site to the southside of the site that leads to the Virginia Women’s Monument.

“As landscape architects, we create designs that are aesthetically pleasing and secure so that people can access and enjoy significant spaces, like the Virginia Capitol,” said Ricky Wiatt, Landscape Architect at VHB. The constructed enhancement exists to protect, but also create a long-term resilient structure that is historically accurate.”

VHB continues to be active on projects surrounding the Virginia Capitol building, including the master plan for Bank Street between N. 9th Street and Governor Street that runs directly in front of the Capitol site. The project includes additional security, new landscaping, ADA, short-term parking options, pedestrian accommodations, and bus loading and unloading.

To learn more about VHB’s work at the Virginia State Capitol, contact Chris Daily.