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Money vs. history: Divided crowd addresses slavery museum
Slavery museum's supporters, critics express views to Fredericksburg City Council.

 Fredericksburg City Council members Joe Wilson (left)
and Ambrose Bailey confer before last night's meeting
on the national slavery museum proposed at Celebrate Virginia.

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Date published: 8/15/2001

Update: Slavery museum wins preliminary OK from City Council

A developer working to bring a slavery museum to Fredericksburg offered the city another option yesterday for recovering $1 million requested as an incentive for the project.

City business leaders and a majority of the more than 100 people who packed City Hall last night urged the council to fund the request. Public comment was continuing as of The Free Lance-Star's press time and it was unclear whether the council would vote on the matter.

Former Gov. Douglas Wilder, who is leading the push for a slave museum in Virginia, met with the council and selected business leaders in a closed session last week to discuss the museum. Wilder has said Richmond and Hampton are also interested in the project.

At that meeting, Silver Cos. Chief Executive Officer Larry Silver asked the city to pledge $1 million as an incentive for organizers to bring the museum to his Celebrate Virginia tourism campus. Silver has promised to provide 20 to 25 acres for the museum--a commitment he estimates to be worth $10 million to $12 million.

Silver personally guaranteed the city would recoup its money if the museum was not in the works within three years or if at least 375,000 square feet of retail, hotel, convention or restaurant space was not built in Celebrate Virginia or the neighboring Central Park shopping center by then.

In an alternative proposal last night, Silver said the city could create a special tax district in Celebrate Virginia that would pay back the $1 million with interest. The special district would allow additional real-estate taxes to be levied on land within the tourism campus until the money was repaid.

The council did not discuss the offer before beginning the public comment period at last night's meeting.

More than 50 people had spoken on the proposal as of 11:30 p.m. Most of the speakers favored the museum, although some took issue with the location and the way the council handled last week's session.

"You either vote it tonight or you lose it tonight--it's Wilder's call. We don't have the choice, the luxury of debate. You either back it or you lose it," businessman Charlie McDaniel said.


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