Armory revitalization projects gets $600,000 grant

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - An empty building is $600,000 closer to being re-purposed. This, thanks to a grant from the Governor.

The Leigh Street Armory in Jackson Ward will now be revitalized into a Black History Museum and Cultural Center.

Jackson Ward is an area rich in African-American history and most people living there say it only makes sense to have this Armory play a role in remembering it.

"It was the center of African American life for almost 100 years, beginning in the 19th century," said Stacy Burrs, Chairman of the Board of the Black History Museum and Cultural Center.

Now, Stacy Burrs hopes to bring that back, by re-opening the Armory as a Black History Museum.

"A museum that tells the African American experience in Virginia that tells it from African American eyes," said Burrs. "But also, how that story has an impact on American History generally speaking and Virginia history."

It's not a new idea, but one that certainly needed the funding.

"Money is very important to the feasibility of any real estate project," said Peter Chapman, Deputy Chief Administrative Officer for Economic Development and Planning. "So, these dollars give us an opportunity to go out and leverage other financing and make the project feasible."

Chapman says the Armory's redevelopment could play a huge role in revitalization of Jackson Ward: "With increased visitors, increased foot traffic, you have increased commercial activity, you also have increased opportunity to showcase the community."

Neighbors we spoke with see the potential.

"An increase in the value of the property-a building that is no longer vacant," said Eugene Spears, who lives nearby.

Museum leaders say that $600,000 is a huge step toward getting the renovations underway on the Armory, but they say they'll need millions to reach their goal by 2015.

Copyright 2011 WWBT NBC12. All rights reserved.