Press Release | Washington, DC | May 26, 2016

Plan to Fully Commemorate Shockoe Bottom’s History Moves Forward

Public Invited to Join Hands-on Design Workshops May 31-June 3

The National Trust for Historic Preservation announced today that a series of public workshops will be held in Richmond next week to surface new ideas to enhance and refine the Community Proposal for a Shockoe Bottom Memorial Park. The workshops are a direct response to the community’s call for a fuller interpretation of Shockoe’s history.

Representatives from the Center for Design Engagement (C*DE), a nonprofit program of the University of Massachusetts, will travel to Richmond to join the Sacred Ground Historical Reclamation Project, Preservation Virginia, and the National Trust in leading a community design charrette over the course of several days. The design charrette will provide an open and welcoming atmosphere where individuals are encouraged to share their ideas to create a detailed and thoughtful memorial park proposal.

“Shockoe Bottom is a sacred place, and we have one chance to get right how we appropriately commemorate Richmond’s slave history,” said Rob Nieweg, senior field director and attorney at the National Trust for Historic Preservation. “Richmonders sent a clear message during the Richmond Speaks process that what is currently offered by the Lumpkin Jail museum concept does not go far enough.”

The Community Proposal for a Shockoe Bottom Memorial Park is the result of a collaborative effort led by the nonprofit Sacred Ground Historical Reclamation Project. It seeks to interpret Shockoe Bottom as a Site of Conscience: to provide a full accounting of Richmond’s slavery history to promote reflection, understanding and healing—while also cultivating economic development to benefit all Richmonders.

“The opportunity before Richmond's residents, right now, is to change this city's public history landscape, to change the story that it tells about itself—to itself and to the world,” said Ana Edwards, chair of the Sacred Ground Project. “The existing value and ongoing potential of Shockoe Bottom to connect Richmond's histories to each other and be a counterweight to the Monument Avenue narrative is remarkable and unique.”

“Shockoe Bottom has become such a crucial test about whether or not we can or will confront the full legacies of slavery,” said Dr. Max Page, professor of Architecture at the University of Massachusetts and co-founder of the C*DE. “This is one of the most important public history debates around slavery in the country and I am pleased that UMass Amherst faculty and students were invited by the community to be a part of this effort.”

“Ensuring that the community’s ideas for telling this significant American story are incorporated, using the Bottom as a focal point for reconciliation, and finding opportunities for sustainable and appropriate economic growth are vitally important to the future of Shockoe Bottom and Richmond,” said Elizabeth Kostelny, chief executive officer of Preservation Virginia.

The schedule for the design charrette is as follows:

  • May 29 and 30: The CD*E team will tour Shockoe Bottom and other sites related to the history of slavery in Richmond, and meet with high school students, local leaders and key institutions involved in the public conversation.
  • May 31 and June 1: The team will host two community meetings using C*DE’s consultative process to elicit ideas from a broad cross-section of individuals. Both meetings will be held from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Storefront for Community Design at 205 East Broad Street. The team will be working out of the Storefront for the duration of their visit and the public is welcome to drop in throughout the week.
  • June 2 and June 3: The team will conduct visits with stakeholders to further develop design ideas, which will then be subject to revisions after meetings with representatives of the Sacred Ground Historical Reclamation Project and its allies.
  • June 3: The team will present its design proposals at a third community meeting, to be held on Friday, June 3 at 5:30 pm at the Black History Museum, 122 W. Leigh Street.

More information is available at

About the Shockoe Bottom National Treasure

In response to the threat to Shockoe Bottom posed by the Mayor of Richmond’s proposal to build a minor league baseball stadium in the heart of what was once the nation’s second-largest slave trading center, the National Trust for Historic Preservation named Shockoe Bottom to its 2014 list of America’s Most Endangered Historic Places and to its portfolio of National Treasures, nationally significant places where the National Trust is committed to finding a long-term preservation solution. Though the proposal to build the stadium was withdrawn last fall, the fate of the district is still up in the air. City officials have indicated their desire to place a traditional museum atop a small slice of Shockoe Bottom, making the area vulnerable to large-scale, inappropriate development and missing an opportunity to think bolder and braver in planning Shockoe’s future. The National Trust is actively working to advance the Community Proposal for a Shockoe Bottom Memorial Park, which would interpret nine acres of the Bottom as a “Site of Conscience” --a place where the public could fully explore Richmond's slave history and examine its lasting impacts to promote present-day understanding and healing.

About the Center for Design Engagement

About the Center for Design Engagement (C*DE): The Center for Design Engagement is a 501(3)(c) non-profit community art and design resource center. The C*DE, led by UMass Amherst Architecture faculty, is dedicated to providing progressive design, innovative public art and civic engagement services particularly in underrepresented communities. It engages in reflective planning, promotes imaginative partnerships and crafts participatory art and design platforms to support inclusive community engagement. The Department of Architecture at the University of Massachusetts Amherst offers the only public university professional architecture program in New England. It has as a primary focus of doing work in the public sphere, and doing so with a deep commitment to engaging with the needs and aspirations of communities traditionally left out of design decisions.


The National Trust for Historic Preservation, a privately funded nonprofit organization, works to save America’s historic places. | @savingplaces

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