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Museum seeks to raise roof for slave ship
Plan for slave ship prompts officials to request permit for U.S. National Slavery Museum's hallmark


Date published: 5/6/2005

By PAMELA GOULD

City Council asked to grant height variance for exhibit

The U.S. National Slavery Museum is asking Fredericksburg to approve its plans to build a facility about 60 feet taller than city ordinance allows.

The extra height allowance is being requested because the museum's signature feature is to be a full-size replica slave ship that would stand 118 feet tall from its keel to the top of the main mast.

At the peak of the glass atrium in which the ship is enclosed, the building would rise to about 150 feet, according to the design by architect Chien Chung Pei of Pei Partnership Architects of New York.

The city ordinance for Planned Development Commercial zoning limits a building's height to 90 feet. Two areas within the city fall into that zoning--Celebrate Virginia South and Central Park, according to city Planning and Community Development Director Raymond Ocel.

The maximum building height in downtown Fredericksburg is 50 feet.

From the beginning, museum officials have said the slave ship is a critical element in telling the story of slavery. Its use was inspired by noted historian and museum board member John Hope Franklin. Franklin's original idea, however, was to have the museum itself be a slave ship.

The museum is being built on a 38-acre parcel within the Celebrate Virginia South tourism complex under development by The Silver Cos. The site sits along the western side of Interstate 95, just above a quarry and the Rappahannock River. It is visible to southbound travelers as they cross the river bridge.

Museum officials have said the 250,000-square-foot structure will open in February 2007.

Clearing and erosion control have been completed. Erosion and sediment control were to cost about $32,000, according to a document filed in the city's Building and Development Services office.

A "multi-lane divided parkway" to serve the entire Celebrate Virginia South complex is under way and expected to be completed next spring, according to documents filed April 28 as part of the museum's special-use permit application.

The museum expects to generate 3,000 daily vehicle trips. A study is to be completed on whether the museum should have a separate traffic signal.

Museum officials expect 450,000 visitors annually, the application states.


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