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Richmond ups offer on slavery museum
Fredericksburg may not increase its offer to get the national slavery museum.

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Date published: 10/7/2001

Two Fredericksburg City Council members say they won't increase their $1 million incentive to attract a slavery museum to the city, despite Richmond's latest $4 million land offer.

"Richmond can sweeten the pot as much as they want but the real driver in this thing is what ultimately is the best location for the museum," Councilman Joe Wilson said yesterday.

He said he feels Fredericksburg's history and its location between the state capital and the nation's capital make it the perfect site for such an attraction.

The Silver Cos. has offered 20 to 25 acres in its Celebrate Virginia tourism development for the museum. The developer has said the tract adjacent to Interstate 95 is worth $10 million to $12 million.

In an early August closed-door meeting with the City Council and former Gov. L. Douglas Wilder, head of the museum effort, the Silver Cos. asked the city to pledge $1 million as an incentive to locate the museum here.

Richmond's latest offer is a 22-acre site near the James River Canal that would cost the city $4 million to $5 million.

That estimate includes the land value and the cost of demolishing buildings on the site and moving Main Street to protect it from floods, according to a story in yesterday's Richmond Times-Dispatch.

Fredericksburg Mayor Bill Beck said he hopes money is not the driving force in the museum board's location choice.

"I really hope that the site selection for this museum does not just become a matter of dollars," he said. "I hope that the site selection really is an issue of picking the most dignified and most historically significant site possible."

Wilder's board is expected to meet in the next few days to decide on a site, his assistant said Friday. Slavery museum consultant Michael Neiditch, a former U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum official, has completed his site-selection study, she said.

Fredericksburg's offer is contingent on a public presentation by Wilder. The former governor has not scheduled another visit to the city, although he said last month that he would be coming to Fredericksburg "very soon."

Fredericksburg City Manager Marvin Bolinger and council members say they haven't heard from Wilder since the city manager sent a letter in August detailing the council's proposal.

Wilder could not be reached for comment yesterday.

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