A group opposing a new Richmond Flying Squirrels (Class AA; Eastern League) ballpark have proposed an alternate plan for Shockoe Bottom: no new ballpark, large slave-trade memorial.
The three-page proposal from a group of activists and historians led by Phil Wilayto calls for the same level of development in the area — hotel, office space, grocery store, apartments and garage — but eliminated the Flying Squirrels ballpark in favor of memorial space dedicated to remembering the slave trade in the area. At one point Richmond hosted the second-busiest slave-trading area in the United States (trailing New Orleans), and the memorial space would commemorate both the slaves sold in the area as well as those buried there.
Of course, there are some obvious problems with the plan. First, there’s the assumption that developers will spend the same amount of money if the ballpark is removed from the plan — and that’s very iffy, considering the ballpark and its 6,000 fans per game night is a big rationale for apartments, retail and restaurants in the area. Second, the ballpark isn’t currently sited on any burial grounds; those are located elsewhere on Shockoe Bottom. Third: while the ballpark is being attacked as a less-than-sterling cornerstone for economic development, it’s highly questionable whether a slave-trade memorial would bring a sizeable number of folks to the area. There have been attempts to create a memorial before in Shockoe Bottom, and the lack of funding stalled any such memorials. From the Richmond Times-Dispatch:
“We think the whole plan is well worth considering as a starting point for more discussion,” said Phil Wilayto, who was involved in putting the plan together along with seven other activists and historians….
“The district itself would form a coherent whole, symbolizing the fact that at one time Shockoe Bottom was an integrated commercial district serving the slave trade, while at the same time providing vital public park/green space for this highly dense urban area,” read a memo from the group describing the plan….
The documents detailing the alternative plan don’t include an estimated price tag, but the opponents believe it would be less costly than the mayor’s plan while still producing new revenue from private development outside the memorial district.
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