RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - New developments tonight in the controversy swirling over a VCU parking lot, and it all stems from what lies beneath the pavement.
For years, groups have said the VCU parking lot near 15th and Broad Streets in Shockoe Bottom covers at least part of an old slave burial ground. Under a deal announced today, VCU will give up the lot for approximately $3 million.
Who can forget "this" carefully crafted statement? "We say get your ass-phalt off of our ancestors!" said King Salim Khalfani on September 28th.
That day, the NAACP joined former Richmond councilman Sa'ad El-Amin in court, asking the state to give up a parking lot built over a slave burial ground. But the courts did not intervene, leading, eventually, to this deal between the state and the city.
"To make sure that site is preserved as part of the American story for future generations," said Gov. Bob McDonnell.
The state will give VCU $3.3 million. In exchange, VCU will give up the lot. Richmond will take over, and perhaps put an end to years of emotional debate.
"The burial ground is extremely sensitive and more important to the community than most people will ever imagine or realize," said Richmond Mayor Dwight Jones.
The $3.3 million is essentially what VCU paid for the lot two years ago, according to McDonnell, who added that tagholders will still be allowed to park there while the deal is finalized. In time, the city will form a plan to transform these 2.5 acres, paving the way for a lasting memorial.
"We look forward to the day where we don't just take up the asphalt over the graves, but that we find a way to appropriately memorialize the important issues that we must embrace," Jones said.
The deal was included in Gov. McDonnell's budget amendments made public last week. It must still be approved by the General Assembly.
Following the announcement, El-Amin he said he won't be satisfied with the deal until it's approved and the cars are gone.