Is Shockoe Bottom's History "Endangered?" - 8NEWS - WRIC | News Where You Live

Is Shockoe Bottom's History "Endangered?"

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RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) - Is Shockoe Bottom endangered? It is, according to one national group and they blame the city's ballpark plan.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation says Shockoe Bottom is one of America's 11 most endangered historic areas. The group says Mayor Dwight Jones' ballpark plan will cover up the African slave trade that was once the center of the area. Now, they're asking for national attention to help stop it.

On one of Richmond's most historical sites, the Lumpkins Slave Jail, history was made again on Tuesday. 

"The dialogue changes," said Rob Nieweg with the National Trust for Historic Preservation. "This is now a national conversation about the future of Shockoe Bottom."

Niewig said the "Revitalize RVA" plan could further bury the slave trade history at the site.

"The soil under these asphalt parking lots is rich with the history of our nation. Stories of our nation that have been erased."

The Trust, along with Preservation Virginia, has helped save sites across the country by adding them on this list. That's why descendents of Solomon Northup, featured in he recent film "12 Years A Slave," were present at today's announcement.

"This is the best opportunity we have to bring this to national attention," stated Clayton Adams, a descendent of Northup.

Matthew Davey, president of the Historic Shockoe Valley Foundation, said while the history of the Bottom is significant, he is just as worried about its future.
"What's more endangered is the hundreds of businesses that are going to shut down if something big doesn't happen down here," Davey said.

He and other stadium supporters say the Mayor's plan does include a slavery heritage site which should be good enough to honor the history of the Bottom.

"Previous ballpark plans for the Bottom did not include a slavery freedom and heritage site. This plan does and includes it in a very big way," Davey pointed out.

While the stadium plan is officially off the books for now, Mayor Jones is expected to re-introduce it at some point this year.

8News asked the Mayor's office about the endangered list; we were told in a statement that the plans to revitalize the Bottom include efforts to support the historical elements of the area, plus and $11 million investment from the state to build the heritage site. The statement reads:

"Revitalize RVA has elevated the discussion about this important part of Richmond's history like it has never been elevated before. Our efforts to revitalize this area, while lifting up the important history at the same time, have also led to an $11 million commitment from the Commonwealth to support our plans for a heritage site, $5 million from the City of Richmond, and an overall plan to invest $30 million in the development a site that can properly honor and recognize our history. We have outlined the extensive archeological and historical review process that we would undertake if development of this area moves forward, and have clearly shown how our efforts bring much-needed investment to support the historical remnants of the area. It is clear to us that development in this area only serves to support the successful establishment of a vibrant cultural and historical destination rather than the empty parking lots that now exist."

8News will continue following this story; stay with us on air and online for updates.

Copyright 2014 by Young Broadcasting of Richmond

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