- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 23, 2001

Civic and political leaders in several cities in the Mid-Atlantic region — including Washington — are scrambling to see which community can put together the land, money and backing needed to build proposed new museums on slavery.
In South Carolina, there are plans to spend $37 million on rehabilitating and preserving Charleston's Old Slave Market, and in Virginia, three communities — Hampton, Richmond and Fredericksburg — are competing for the right to build the proposed Jamestown Slavery Museum, the brainchild of former Gov. L. Douglas Wilder.
The Virginia project, which is projected to cost between $100 million and $200 million, has been criticized in Washington by groups working to put a slavery memorial or museum on the National Mall. Those efforts could get a boost from Congress, which is expected to consider a bill that would create a Smithsonian African-American Museum.
Proponents in each city say there's enough demand and need to justify several ambitious projects — but the competition to build first is fierce.
In Richmond yesterday, Mr. Wilder updated reporters on the status of the proposed Jamestown Slavery Museum.
Mr. Wilder, the first black to be elected governor of Virginia, said Hampton has been added to the list of contenders because private individuals had come forward, asking that their properties be considered for the site.
The two other cities on the short list are still confident about their bids, despite Hampton's late entry.
"We don't have any misgivings [about the competitive process]. We are comfortable with our proposal, and we certainly hope that Richmond is the site selected," said Michelle Quander-Collins, spokeswoman for the city manager.
Richmond offered to contribute a $1.5 million land parcel at Rockett's Landing on the banks of the James River near historic Route 5, and rehabilitate a dock in that area.
The Silver Co., a Fredericksburg developer, is donating up to 25 acres valued at about $12 million, and the city will add another $1 million to the bid. The $1 million is an interest-bearing loan from the city to the Silver Co.
Mr. Wilder said Michael Neiditch, a former official with the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum who is acting as a consultant for the slave museum, will submit a report on the three proposed locations and "that report will be a major factor in determining the museum site."
Mr. Wilder expects to get the report within a few weeks, and then set up a national design competition.
Mr. Neiditch said that transportation to the museum — car, train, and air — will play a more important role in the selection process than financial incentives.
"We must plan sufficiently so that 40 years from now, people will say site selection was done right," Mr. Neiditch said.
Efforts to jump-start a similar project in the District, meanwhile, may require federal cash.
Sen. Sam Brownback, Kansas Republican, and Rep. John Lewis, Georgia Democrat, are asking for $25 million in the 2002 federal budget to fund the creation of a black-history museum in one of the Smithsonian's existing buildings on the Mall. The bill authorizes $15 million to convert the Smithsonian's Arts and Industries Building on the Mall as the site, and $10 million to establish a council to oversee the planning, design, renovation and initial management of the museum.
Backers of the proposal expect to raise an additional $50 million to $75 million through public-private partnerships.
The lawmakers haven't approached Mr. Wilder or members of his board, but staff members said they haven't ruled out an affiliation once both museum projects are completed.


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