A proposal for a Shockoe Bottom Memorial Park

08/15/2015 7:43 PM by

“A proposal for a Shockoe Bottom Memorial Park” was presented at a community meeting this afternoon sponsored by the Sacred Ground Historical Reclamation Project of the Defenders of Freedom, Justice, and Equality at Wesley Memorial United Methodist Church. The proposal was born out of four community brainstorming sessions over the past year, and is intended to be presented to Mayor Jones and City Council.

Working from the position that “future development [in Shockoe] should blend respectful commemoration of this country’s slavery-related history, cultural heritage tourism, and economic opportunity”, the proposal envisions a nine-acre Shockoe Bottom Memorial Park “large enough to convey the sense of enormity of the slave trade practiced there.” The park would encompass the Lumpkin’s Jail site, the Burial Ground, “Execution of Gabriel” marker, and land to the east to 17th Street

The document says that 2/3 of this land is already set aside for memorialization, and proposes to add 2 the square blocks east of the tracks bound by Broad Street, 17th Street, and Grace Street. Some of this land is city-owned, and the proposal calls for the city to purchase the remainder.

The plans describes how the Shockoe Bottom Memorial Park could be developed in two phases. By declaring that the city-owned land is definitely set aside for memorialization, acquiring the necessary private parcels, removing the parking blacktop on the land, and extending the Trail of Enslaved Africans to this land, a Shockoe Bottom Memorial Park can be put in place “at minimal cost.”

An Interpretive Center and outdoor museum are put forth as a 2nd phase. In this proposal, part of Main Street Station Train Shed would serve as the Interpretive Center. The center and museum would house education programming, a recreation of Shockoe Creek, and archeological investigation and excavation.

The park should be operated by a independent non-profit organization, it is proposed, along with an oversite committee made of individuals and organizations “with proven records of working to reclam and properly memorialize Shockoe Bottom.”

The document says that the value to Richmond of this development would be “redemptive, economic, and cultural.” As unique space where “this country’s founding on a slave-based economy finally can be examined, along with the myriad consequences that flowed from that system right into our present time”, a Shockoe Bottom Memorial Park would serve as a permanent economic draw for the region.

The document does not put a final price tag on either phase of the proposal, though it does detail funding sources available for the necessary land acquisition. City Council has pledged $5,000,000 for memorialization in Shockoe Bottom, the document states. The Virginia General Assembly has pledged another $3,000,000, with $9,000,000 available as reimbursement to the city. Private fundraising and dedicated TIF funding (along the lines of the Mayor’s proposal) are suggested as well.

Phil Wylato said that the plan will be made available online in the next day or so. I will add a link here when that is available.

With a stadium development apparently off the table, Mayor Jones announced a renewed push to memorialize Lumpkin’s Jail site earlier this week. A community meeting on the proposal is set for September 10 at Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School.




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