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Judge wants Wilder to testify
Date published: 8/16/2012
By Chelyen Davis
RICHMOND--A federal bankruptcy court judge hearing the U.S. National Slavery Museum case said Wednesday that he wants former Gov. Doug Wilder to testify at a hearing Friday.
Judge Douglas O. Tice Jr., also said Wednesday that he'll allow Celebrate Virginia to be a party to the museum's bankruptcy case.
Tice's ruling came after two hours of testimony from a Silver Cos. official about how development plans at Celebrate Virginia South have been severely damaged by the museum's failure to get off the ground. That harm has included the loss of high-profile tenants such as Kalahari, which intended to build a water park and hotel there but never did.
Wednesday's hearing will be followed by the one Friday in which Celebrate Virginia's lawyers will push for the museum to be liquidated and will argue that Wilder--who founded the museum project--has shown a "reluctance to raise funds" necessary to revive the project.
Tice scheduled that hearing for Friday morning, rather than hearing more testimony Wednesday, because he wants Wilder to be present to testify. If he can't come, Tice said, he'll have to give a deposition.
Wednesday's hearing centered on whether Celebrate Virginia has standing to be involved in the bankruptcy case.
Celebrate Virginia donated 38 acres of prime real estate to Wilder's slavery museum project a decade ago, with the idea that donating the land would reap benefits after the museum was built and attracted other development around it.
The entire development was based around the museum as an anchor for a new tourism district, said Scott Little, Celebrate Virginia's director of development.
The museum's failure to ever start construction led to the loss of several other tenants and development deals, Little said, including the deal with Kalahari to build a water park.
Kalahari and others--including an aquarium--wanted to be part of a tourism-based development but didn't want to be the first tenant, Little testified. The museum--with prime land visible from the interstate--was to be the anchor, the attraction that drew traffic. Little said Celebrate Virginia was in talks with companies to create an entertainment district, an extreme sports facility and other attractions.