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Slavery museum running short on time to begin work under city permit
The U.S. National Slavery Museum has built a 'Spirit of Freedom Exhibit Garden' on its property in Celebrate Virginia,
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|PDF: View original special-use permit approved by city.|
By PAMELA GOULD
U.S. National Slavery Museum officials have 4 months to start construction or face the prospect of returning to square one in the city-approval process.
Fredericksburg officials say it would be possible but difficult to begin building the museum within that timeframe, given that approvals are still needed for the structure and site work. The approval process takes at least two months.
Not only do museum officials not have a building permit or a permit for site work, they hadn't submitted requests for them as of yesterday.
More significantly, the museum does not have the money to build the 290,000-square-foot structure.
Cost estimates have doubled over the past four years. Museum officials said the project would cost $100 million when the design was unveiled; The New York Times reported this week that museum officials now place the estimated cost at $200 million.
Museum spokesman Matt Langan told The Free Lance-Star that museum officials are aware of the Aug. 1 construction deadline and are trying to meet it, but he had no date for work to begin.
"I know construction this year is the plan," he said. "I know it is the goal."
A top official with the company developing Celebrate Virginia, where the museum is to be built, said he would not begin work on a project until he had secured funding.
"Without being 100 percent convinced I had the money to pay the bills, I would not start construction," said Jud Honaker, president of commercial development for The Silver Cos.
The museum's most recent tax return listed net assets of nearly $17.7 million, but nearly all of it--roughly $17.4 million--is the value of the land, which was donated by The Silver Cos.
The museum's 2006 tax return showed a 60 percent drop in funds raised over the previous year--from $938,186 to $383,582 in public contributions.
The 2006 total apparently includes about $50,000 that The New York Times report says the museum raised at a June 2006 gala in Washington.
In June 2007, museum Executive Director Vonita Foster said she needed to raise $10 million by the end of September to open a 2,500-square-foot visitors center by the end of this year.
In September, she didn't say whether she had met that goal. This week, Langan was asked about it but did not provide an answer.