National Trust: Vision for Shockoe Valley Must Be Broad, Brave, and Rooted in History
Statement by Stephanie K. Meeks, President and CEO, National Trust for Historic Preservation
Today representatives from the Rose Center will present to the public their preliminary findings and recommendations on achieving Mayor Stoney’s vision for Shockoe Valley. The following is a statement from the National Trust for Historic Preservation:
“For Shockoe Bottom to evolve beyond its current state of surface parking and vacant lots in a way that honors the sanctity of the ground that lies beneath, several essential elements must form the foundation of any Shockoe Bottom development plan:
“The size and scope of the memorialization of Shockoe Bottom’s past must extend beyond the Lumpkin’s Jail/Devil’s Half-Acre site. The magnitude of the horrors committed here require it. Comprehensive archaeology must precede any development, as we know only a fraction of the artifacts that lie beneath this former slave trading center. The community also deserves a strong voice in the design process, especially as it concerns creating opportunities for African-Americans to open small businesses and gain vocational training and education in the area. Only then will Shockoe Bottom meet its true potential as a place of learning, reflection, and equitable economic development that benefits the local community.
“The nation will be watching Richmond, as communities across the country are now grappling with how to reckon with painful chapters in their history that have long been suppressed. We encourage Mayor Stoney to lead this former capital of the Confederacy forward by embracing a plan for Shockoe Valley’s future that is broad, brave, and rooted in history.”
BACKGROUND ON SHOCKOE BOTTOM
Shockoe Bottom in downtown Richmond, Virginia, was once a national center of the 19th-century slave trade. Much of Shockoe Bottom has since been razed and paved over, with much of its archaeological resources unexcavated. The National Trust and its local allies believe Shockoe Bottom must be understood nationwide as a place of endurance and resistance, and should be treated as a Site of Conscience, where the public can remember past struggles for freedom and work together to address the contemporary legacies of injustice. Mayor Stoney has expressed his desire to use the Rose Center process to create a vision for Shockoe Valley that will, in his words “leverage existing investments in the area and honor its history to create a new destination district that supports its goals for economic development, the preservation of its cultural and historic heritage, and environmental sustainability."
The National Trust recently formed the African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund, a $25 million multi-year initiative that will double our own programmatic efforts to celebrate African American activism and achievement and establish a new grant fund to preserve irreplaceable African American historic places.