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Judge wants Wilder to testify page 2
Judge wants Wilder to testify

Date published: 8/16/2012


But as time went on and the museum lay dormant, letters of intent expired and those potential tenants went elsewhere.

"We had an international-branded aquarium project ready to roll," Little said. "That deal has since gone up in flames."

The aquarium went to Canada, he said; Kalahari is building in Pennsylvania.

The impact on Celebrate Virginia has been large, Little said; in addition to the lost deals, the company took out $25 million in bonds and now can't pay for them. He said it has also damaged Celebrate Virginia's reputation in the community.

"Every day that it's prolonged is another day of death sentence for our development," Little said. "It has hurt our business badly, we have been tremendously damaged because of it. We lose money every day of our lives because of the failure of the slavery museum to perform."

Little said it is difficult for Celebrate Virginia to find another anchor for the development, since it's looking specifically for a tourism-related anchor.

He also said that the neglect of the museum's property hurts the development, since potential tenants are turned off by the property's unkempt appearance. Little said it's overgrown with briars and weeds, and has some fallen trees.

Little said Celebrate Virginia has tried to contact Wilder about keeping up the property, but haven't heard back from him.

Little's testimony also touched on the restrictive use covenants on the 38 acres. At the time it was given to the museum, Celebrate Virginia required that the land be used for an African-American history museum or educational use.

Now the museum is proposing to sell off part of its land to help pay its debts, while reorganizing and raising funds to resume operations. Museum attorney Sandra Robinson has argued that the covenants should be invalidated and that the land was a gift, which means Celebrate Virginia no longer has any say in its use.

That is exactly why the covenants were put on the land in the first place, Little said.

"We didn't give [Wilder] $19 million worth of land so he could turn around and sell off the pieces," Little said.

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