Community group contests Richmond's plans for Shockoe memorial

Updated: Mar. 27, 2017 at 10:46 PM EDT
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RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - There was a huge show of support for a community development project in Shockoe Bottom Monday night, as dozens of people held signs up at city council to support one of the proposals to memorialize slave history in the Bottom.

Ana Edwards, with the Sacred Ground Historical Reclamation Project, said the city's work to consider development of the Lumpkin's Slave Jail Site should only be a piece of this development. Edwards wants a memorial park and other lands designated as historical sites.

She urged the city to meet with the longstanding community stakeholders to determine the best short term and long term plans for Shockoe. Her group says starting with the memorial park will be the best use of the money available now.

"If planned creatively and well, the memorial park can begin with funds in hand. Establish the park design, and the layout of its features, both built and preserved, and phase in the rest as funds are raised. In fact, we believe this approach would inspire confidence and investment," said Edwards.

Council didn't take any action on the future of Shockoe Bottom, but they did pass a resolution possibly slowing down an already approved HUD development along Westwood Tract, near Union Presbyterian Seminary.

Councilwoman Kim Gray proposed a resolution to ask the city to go back and consider the impact the 300-unit building would have on the neighborhood and nearby schools, including Varitas.

"The Seminary professors and leadership would have never done something like this then, so it's a strange change which has created this big fight between a community and the seminary," said Ben Campbell, who lives in the neighborhood.

While council passed this resolution unanimously, seemingly each member agreed that there is a flaw in the way the city approves urban development projects. Councilwoman Ellen Robertson said that in her time on council, she's never seen a development project get this far to have to turn around and study what should have already been studied in the first place.

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