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Alternative plan pitched for Richmond's Shockoe Bottom: No new ballpark

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New Richmond Flying Squirrels ballpark

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.

RELATED STORIES: Flying Squirrels lease: $1.7M annually; naming rights could lower that number; Squirrels ballpark plan include hotel, apartments, grocery; Richmond quietly positions for new ballpark; Activists: Ballpark not best use for Shockoe Bottom; Poll: Squirrels home should be built next to current ballpark; Richmond: No vote on ballpark location; Flying Squirrels: Fans don't know what they are missing; Richmond committee: Don't put ballpark location to vote; Richmond ballpark location may be decided by voters; New Richmond ballpark: on or off?; Shockoe Bottom gaining momentum as Flying Squirrels ballpark site?; Progress made on new Richmond ballpark: McEacharn; MiLB squirrelly about new Richmond ballpark; Flying Squirrels: New ballpark still a priority; Flying Squirrels extend Diamond lease, setting stage for ballpark improvements; Experts: Downtown ballpark could revitalize Richmond; Squirrels: No plans to leave Richmond "at the present time"; Didn't take long: Opposition rises to Richmond Shockoe Bottom ballpark siteRichmond ballpark discussion shifts back to Shockoe Bottom; Manchester in play as well; Richmond: Yes, we really do intend on building a new ballparkBudget issues postpone Squirrels ballpark to 2015 at the earliestNew Richmond ballpark by 2014?; DiBella: Time to start talking new ballpark; Flying Squirrels throw out first offer on new ballparkBaseball returns to Richmond's Diamond -- but for how long?

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