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Richmond sweetens the deal
Richmond makes $1.5 million bid for slavery museum, but Fredericksburg officials aren't worried.

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Date published: 8/17/2001

Fredericksburg councilmen who support a proposed slavery museum in the city say they aren't concerned about a $1.5 million incentive package offered by Richmond.

Richmond made its pledge Tuesday, the day before Fredericksburg councilmen voted to tentatively commit $1 million to the project. Developer Larry Silver has said he would donate 20 to 25 acres valued at up to $12 million.

The Silver Cos. hopes to add the museum to its plans for Celebrate Virginia, a 2,100-acre golf, tourist and commercial venture along the Rappahannock River.

"I don't have any reservation that Governor Wilder's final decision will be here in Fredericksburg," Councilman Ambrose Bailey said yesterday. "I'm not at all worried about any big talk from the Richmond city councilmen."

Vice Mayor Gordon Shelton, who also supports locating the museum in the Celebrate Virginia development, said the $1 million offer is all he's willing to make.

"I, for one, do not intend to get into any bidding war," he said. "I'm 100 percent behind the motion that was made Tuesday night and will certainly support it all the way through."

Officials in Hampton and Petersburg also have expressed interest in competing for former Gov. L. Douglas Wilder's project.

Richmond City Manager Calvin D. Jamison sent a two-page proposal to Wilder on Tuesday offering to contribute land for the museum, restore a city dock in the area and identify "substantial local support from the corporate community."

Richmond's proposal does not include a direct cash contribution.

Wilder, the nation's first elected black governor and the grandson of slaves, first proposed the museum during a 1993 trip to Africa. He did not return a phone call to his Richmond office yesterday.

Some Richmond City Council members have objected to putting the museum in Fredericksburg.

"If it goes to Fredericksburg, we African-Americans will have had our heritage and culture put on the auction block once again to be sold to the highest bidder," said Councilman Sa'ad El-Amin.

"I'm not surprised Richmond would take that attitude," Bailey said. "They're just very upset that a very small historic city would be able to compete."

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