3 Contractors to dig up asphalt on slave burial ground for free

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Richmond is moving forward with plans to get rid of a VCU parking lot believed to built on a slave burial ground.

Wednesday the mayor announced three local contractors are joining together to help remove the asphalt. Decades of gravel and tar and repaving, will soon be dug up.

"The 3.4 acre parcel is believed to be among the nation's oldest municipal cemetery's for enslaved and freed blacks," said Mayor Dwight Jones.

And it's been the center of debate, protest and court battle for years. VCU parks 340 cars here daily. The university has agreed to turn the property over to the state for 3 million dollars. The state will give it to the city. Mayor Dwight Jones announced today three local contractors will work for free, tearing up what the NAACP has called a desecration.

"I think it's huge that these guys have stepped up and are going to provide $123,000 worth of work and now we can get the cars off the asphalt," said Jones.

Liesfeld Contractor, Dwight Snead Construction and Ty's Hauling and Paving will dig up the asphalt, plant grass, even landscape the area.

"It's only the right thing to do. It's probably something that shouldn't have happened, in the past, and this is a small way we can do something to correct that situation," said Dwight Snead.

As for the 400 MCV employees and medical students that park here? VCU plans to move them to the Main Street Station lot and other nearby parking decks.

"The big question about this site is going to be whether you memorialize it or you do an excavation. And I think that's going to be a big question. It's going to be a question the community has to answer," added Delegate Delores McQuinn.

VCU's Board of Visitors will vote to turn this property over to the city later this month. The removal of the asphalt begins May 31st.

The city plans to hold public meetings on the future of the African burial ground and the slave trail May 12 and 13th. The location and times of those community meetings will be announced later this week.

Copyright 2011 WWBT NBC12. All rights reserved.