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Museum deal worth $1 million? Backers say project will be tourism boon; details sketchy
The City Council may vote tonight to support a national slavery museum in Fredericksburg.

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Date published: 8/14/2001

A national slavery museum could bring 2 million visitors to Fredericksburg each year and create up to 400 jobs, the developer hoping to land the project says.

City Council members must decide soon whether that's worth a $1 million investment of taxpayer money.

They're expected to get plenty of advice from residents tonight at a meeting that begins at 7:30 at City Hall. Organizers have provided few details to the public about the proposal, but council members are planning a presentation at the meeting.

Council members could vote on the incentive proposal tonight.

"Several people have said they don't have a problem with the project, they just aren't willing to spend a million dollars on it," said Councilman Richard Garnett, who supports the museum. "And we're working to overcome that."

Silver Cos. Chief Executive Officer Larry Silver asked the city last week 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.

The request is about what the city spends yearly on all tourism projects in a budget that totals about $45 million.

"Certainly, it's a lot of money," Garnett said. "When it's all over, we won't pay a million dollars, I expect."

Silver distributed a letter detailing his request during a closed-door meeting last week between council members, community and business leaders and former Gov. L. Douglas Wilder, head of the museum's board of trustees.

Wilder did not respond to requests for comment yesterday on what the $1 million would go toward or why that figure was chosen. Ruby G. Martin, former secretary of administration under Wilder and secretary-treasurer of the museum board, said yesterday she didn't know.

Silver said he believes the figure is meant to show the city is serious about the museum.

"I can't speak for Governor Wilder, but I think he tried to come up with a token amount for a project this size that would prove the city is invested," Silver said.

Silver said the museum would be an anchor for the tourism complex, which will include hotels, offices and shops on both the Fredericksburg and Stafford County sides of the Rappahannock River.

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