Reclaiming Our Sacred Ground


Originally published in the Winter 2020 edition of the Virginia Defender, issue 61, printed February 17. Reproduced here in for accessibility and archival purposes. To find other stories in the Winter 2020 issue or to download the full PDF, see this post. For the full web catalog, see our Full Issues page.

By Ana Edwards

A study of the economic ramifications of the community-generated proposal for a nine-acre Shockoe Bottom Memorial Park addresses some fundamental questions about the project:

How much would it cost, and how would it benefit the city, especially its Black community?

The study, “Shockoe Bottom Memorialization: Community and Economic Impacts,” released this past October, was conducted by the VCU Center for Urban and Regional Analysis (CURA).

It’s the first part of a two-part study titled “A Future for Shockoe: A vision for equitable development,” a joint project between Preservation Virginia, the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the Sacred Ground Historical Reclamation Project. The two-part study was funded by a $75,000 grant from the African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

The study assumes a landscaped park that includes an interpretive center or museum. The models used in the study indicate the following economic impact:

* For a one-time $8.7 million investment, memorial park visitor spending in the city would generate between $3.7 and 7.7 million in total economic activity in Richmond each year, supporting 43 to 85 jobs.

* For a one-time $35.2 million investment, museum visitor spending on-site and in the city as a whole would generate a total of $28.4 million in economic activity each year, supporting a total of 316 jobs.

$8.7 million invested in the construction of the memorial park would result in an immediate, one-time economic impact of $11.5 million. Of that, $4.5 million would be labor costs in the form of 75 jobs and money spent on supplies, housing, meals, transportation, and entertainment in the Richmond area.

However, once built, the Memorial Park experience could result in tourism spending ranging from $3.6 to $7.6 million annually – spending on accommodations, parking, gas, meals, entertainment and retail shopping.

This means that an $8.7 million investment over 20 years could result in anywhere from $72 to $152 million in economic impact to the Richmond region. If you deduct 20 years of operating costs over that same period – $9.7 million – the net gain would be $ 62.3 to $142.3 million.

And that’s just the memorial park. The study’s models confirm that the addition of a $26.8 million museum or interpretive center would result in a short-term economic impact of $35.2 million in the region. Once built, factoring in annual operations costs of $3.1 million, the net benefit of total visitor spending annually would be $25.2 million. Over 20 years: $504 million.

The second part of the study deals with models for equitable economic redevelopment – in other words, how the memorial park could be paid for and how it could benefit the Black community. We’ll cover that part in the next Defender.

The entire study can be found here.

The Community Proposal for a Shockoe Bottom Memorial Park is an economical investment in the present and future of our city, and a demonstration of the value of making visible what has been invisible: the truth of Richmond’s history that can at long last put into context the mountains climbed in the on-going pursuit of a just society.

Ana Edwards chairs the Defenders’ Sacred Ground Historical Reclamation Project, which developed the community proposal for a nine-acre Shockoe Bottom Memorial Park.

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