The Shockoe Bottom Vision Plan

The Shockoe Bottom Vision Plan (SBVP) includes a Sacred Ground Memorial District. This alternative proposal is the result of months of effort by a collection of individuals in agreement in their opposition to the construction of a sports stadium in Shockoe Bottom. From this process a division of labor evolved that demonstrated both our shared and distinctive strategies and manifested in two complementary plans, one derived from the other.

Our Shared Priorities:

  1. Demonstrate the normalcy and scale of the slave trade in Shockoe Bottom.
  2. Support an overall vision for Shockoe Bottom that respects and is sensitive to its historic significance.
  3. Archaeology must inform all development and construction going forward.
  4. Richmond's Black community has the first right to determine how this area will be memorialized.

Sacred Ground Memorial District

To speak directly to the historic significance of the area, focus has been placed on defining a memorial area within the larger Shockoe Bottom Vision to be preserved from all commercial development. To that end, a Sacred Ground Memorial District was identified within the SBVP by adding two square blocks bounded on the west by the railroad tracks, on the east by 17th Street, on the north by E. Broad and on the south by E. Franklin, to the approximately 6 square blocks that includes Lumpkin’s Jail, the Richmond African Burial Ground and the Trail of Enslaved Africans. The SGMD plan is designed to
  1. Lay the physical basis for a real Memorial Park;
  2. Limit the city’s current spending to the $2.4 million to purchase the two blocks and prevent the rushed and exorbitant development expenditures that could leave it at risk of enormous new debt ($80 million); and
  3. Launch the community input process to discuss and determine how this area will be memorialized and who will be responsible for the governance of this Memorial Park.

Shockoe Bottom Vision Plan

Prepared to provide city council members with an alternative development vision for Shockoe Bottom that would stop the stadium while demonstrating support for taxable development. A design overlay district will guide future development that ensures respect for existing businesses and historical significance. This plan includes elements from Mayor Jones’ own 2011 Shockoe Bottom Strategic Planning Report as well as some of the Mayor’s current proposal (north of Broad, east of the railroad tracks, and south of Broad, east of 17th street).

A Vision Plan for Shockoe Bottom


  • The Vision Plan is grounded and consistent with the City’s 2011 Shockoe Revitalization Strategy, for which the Administration paid $150,000.
  • Recognizing Richmond's central role in the internal slave trade, a role that involved the entire commercial district of Shockoe Bottom, this proposal creates a defined Sacred Ground Memorial District (SGMD) – an outdoor museum – that can properly memorialize the hundreds of thousands of people who were imprisoned, bought and sold there.
  • The SGMD, about eight square blocks, would include the Lumpkin’s Jail site, the African Burial Ground and the two blocks south of Broad and west of 17th Street. Land outside this defined district would be open for private development.

  • The SGMD would be owned and operated by a combination of the City and State governments, assisted by nonprofits with expertise in history, anthropology and tourism and informed by continuing and meaningful community input.
  • The SGMD would be landscaped and united by a looped extension of the Trail of Enslaved Africans (Slave Trail) and a symbolic depiction of the some 350,000 people of African descent sold from Virginia from 1830 to 1865.
  • The rediscovered stone foundation of Lumpkin's Jail would be preserved and developed to increase public awareness, research and education. 
  • The African Burial Ground would be marked with culturally appropriate statuary symbolizing the lives of those buried there, as well as those executed at the town gallows, including the great slave rebellion leader Gabriel.
  • The two blocks west of 17th Street would be reserved for a museum to tell the entire history of Shockoe Bottom – American Indian, municipal, Jewish, Quaker, Masonic – but primarily that related to slavery, the slave trade, resistance and emancipation, as well as the African cultures that are the true heritage of enslaved people in this country. This museum should NOT be built on the African Burial Ground, which would represent a further desecration of that sacred ground.
  • With its emphasis on the historic denial of human rights, the Plan seeks resonance with the Black History Museum and Cultural Center of Virginia, Virginia Holocaust Museum, First Freedom Center, Reconciliation Statue, Henry ”Box” Brown memorial, Gabriel Historical Marker and other elements in the Bottom that portray both the denial and expansion of human and civil rights.
  • The Shockoe Bottom Vision Plan and Sacred Ground Memorial District are both specific and notional. That is, in their parkland, museum, memorials and other features, they portray a vision while anticipating change in the course of wider community dialogue.


  • The historic connection between Shockoe Creek, the Kanawha-Haxall canals and the James River would be re-established with the construction of a Shockoe Creek Canal Extension. This new linear water feature would address the issue of the floodplain, satisfy the EPA and Chesapeake Bay Act mandate to separate storm water and sewer management and provide a vital public park/green space for this highly dense urban area. 
  • Except for the section of East Grace Street between the CSX railroad tracks and 17th Street, the Vision Plan does not affect the existing street grid or necessitate the removal of any existing, operating businesses.
  • Franklin Street can be reopened, as in the Mayor’s plan.
  • The proposal eliminates the need for and expense of a separate on/off ramp from I-95.
  • Improvements in existing infrastructure would be made in conjunction with new development construction.

New Development

  • As is asserted in the Davenport study accompanying the Mayor’s proposal, it is clear that the Bottom can and will attract widespread economic investment in the absence of a stadium.
  • The Vision Plan allows for all the Bottom development components described in the mayor's proposal: hotel, market, 750 residential units and parking deck – while eliminating the incongruent ballpark. The 200 residential units planned for either side of the stadium could be constructed in the open areas between 17th and 18th streets, south of Broad to Franklin.
  • The scale of new development should respect the existing architectural pattern in this historic neighborhood.
  • The new development should include provision for affordable housing and local business development to insure equal access to the economic benefits of the development.


  • A newly established Design Overlay District would encompass the Vision Plan area to ensure that all new structures in the areas around the defined Memorial District are compatible with the historic character of the area.


  • The Shockoe Bottom Vision Plan proposal allows all the economic development elements of the Mayor's Plan, thereby increasing the City’s tax base. In addition, it establishes a Memorial District with the potential of developing into a major tourist destination, resulting in many more millions of tax dollars realized through tax revenue from hotel rooms, restaurant meals, etc. Further, this anticipated new influx of visitors – such as has resulted from similar slavery-history-related developments in New Orleans; Charleston, S.C.; Birmingham, Ala; Liverpool, England; and Goree Island in Senegal – would bring new dollars into the city, thereby expanding businesses and creating jobs. This would benefit a much broader section of the population than the Mayor's proposal and would therefore have a much more direct effect on poverty reduction.
  • The only privately-owned land parcels that would have to be purchased are those between Broad and Franklin and the railroad tracks and 17th Street, currently assessed at $2,402,000. That expense, plus the cost of clearing, sodding and landscaping the property, could easily be covered by the $5 million City contribution proposed by Mayor Jones and $11 million State contribution proposed by Gov. McDonnell. The rest of that money would be used for site memorialization, augmented by the fundraising campaign proposed by the Mayor and TIF funding from new commercial development in the Bottom.
  • Drainage and sewage amelioration would rely on the same funding base envisioned under the Mayor’s plan.


No one person or organization has the right to decide what should be done with the sacred ground that is Shockoe Bottom. Only the African-descended community as a whole has that right. By collectively examining many ideas we can begin the process of reclaiming and properly memorializing this land, made sacred by the suffering and resistance of the people whose lives were sold to produce the tremendous profits that were the foundation for building the United States of America.

A series of community meetings is being planned to engage the descendant African American community in discussions to determine how the sites included in the Memorial Park will be developed and memorialized. Once the schedule is set, we will post information on this website.


DefendersFJE said...
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Liz said...

Excellent - looking forward to hearing how this alternative will remain financially viable. That's the one thing we'll need to win over the supporters of the ballpark. Has anyone run the numbers? What will the ticket prices be?