Thursday, May 31, 2012

Setback for Wilder could open opportunity for Richmond

The Richmond Times-Dispatch carries this news this morning:
The city of Fredericksburg opposes a plan to resurrect a national slavery museum envisioned by former Gov. L. Douglas Wilder, calling the plan to dig out from $7 million in debt unrealistic.

The city is the first of the museum's creditors to cast its vote on a bankruptcy reorganization plan, which relies on donations to generate about $900,000 in its first year after it emerges from Chapter 11 protection and $1.3 million in the second year.

Fredericksburg is owed more than $250,000 in taxes for land where the U.S. National Slavery Museum was to rise. It said in a filing in U.S. Bankruptcy Court that the proposed plan "does not appear to be feasible or realistic."
The rationale for a National Slavery Museum in Fredericksburg was always thin.

Wilder's failure to come up with a workable plan could open the door to a Richmond based U.S. National Slave Museum. Richmond has the Lumpkin's Slave Jail site to work with and historically was a large slave market. There are a large number of slavery heritage sites throughout the city that would allow to create a mostly outdoor "walking" museum with only a modest brick and mortar establishment. Indeed, with Main Street Station slated to be overhauled soon and immediately adjacent, it may be unnecessary to do any new construction. A renovated Main Street Station will need tenants and could easily accommodate a new U.S. National Slave Museum. A slavery museum in Main Street Station's train shed would provide that area a much needed anchor development in an area that needs culturally and historically sensitive development.

This confluence of events could create a big opportunity for Richmond.

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