VIRGINIA BEACH - The final product is many years and many millions of dollars away, but tonight, the dream of bringing an African American Cultural Center to the city will get its start.
The City Council is expected to donate nearly 5 acres of land near the intersection of Newtown and Diamond Springs roads to a group planning to build a high-technology interactive museum they say will shine light on the region's long and important African American contribution. The agreement will cost taxpayers no cash, and the city will contribute nothing except the land, according to a council resolution and an outline of the terms of the deal.
And if the organizers, African American Cultural Center Inc., don't begin construction within five years, the land goes back to the city.
"This agreement is important because it shows the city's commitment to the project, and that gives us a leg up on getting the money and commitment we are going to need," said Bruce Williams, a vice president of the group. "That's why we're so keen to get the city to convey the property, because it gives us something ironclad to work with."
Preliminary plans call for a 25,000-square-foot structure that would include classrooms and interactive exhibits detailing the nearly 400 years of history since the first Africans were brought to North America. Williams said his group is hoping to raise enough money to incorporate many of the high-tech concepts of the new Slover Library in downtown Norfolk.
The group does not yet have a working budget but will not borrow any money, instead relying solely on donors, Williams said. Until big donors are secured, any speculation on cost is premature, he said.
"This council vote may be the simpler part of the program," Williams said. "It's the beginning of the process, but we have a lot of work ahead."
John Holland, 757-222-5047, email@example.com
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