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Local News in Virginia

– In Virginia Beach – City Donates Land For AA Cultural Center

By Leonard E. Colvin

Chief Reporter

New Journal and Guide

The Virginia Beach City Council recently voted 11-0 to donate a 4.8 acre patch of city-owned land to a group seeking to raise money and support to build an African-American Cultural Center (AACC).

Nine months after it was proposed by Virginia Beach Councilwoman Amelia M. Ross-Hammond at the panel’s annual retreat, the action clears the first hurdle the AACC planning committee can check off its list toward its goal of making the facility a reality.

Ross-Hammond is the chair of the 12-member Executive Board which is spearheading a campaign in the coming months to organize plans for the fundraising machinery and eventual construction of the facility.

Hammond said the projected cost of the proposed 25,000 square foot facility, will be upwards to $10 million plus dollars, for the building and all of the internal technology and other infrastructure needed to operate such a center.

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The facility, she said, will have space for exhibitions of art and historic items, classrooms for educational options and meetings and office space.

“The conveyance of the property will mobilize our community towards building a cultural center to share the richness and diversity of the African-American experience for residents and tourists,” said Councilwoman Hammond. “It will be another hub for African-American history and public partnership because the City is vested in its success though collaboration with the Virginia Beach Public Schools for cultural and educational programming; Parks and Recreation, for maintaining an easement over the site; Economic Development; and more importantly, it is now a part of the Virginia Beach Cultural Plan 2030.”

A. Bruce William’s is CEO of A. Bruce William’s and Associates, a p.r. firm in Virginia Beach and the AACC’s Executive Committee’s Second Vice President.

“With the 11-0 vote, the city has made the first investment with conveying the land to build this facility,” said Williams. “Now we have charge to the raise the money we need to make it a reality. The entire community is supporting this effort.”

Hammond said that after extensive negotiations with the city, Virginia Beach will fund the infrastructure for the building, including utilities and curbing and roads.

Contrary to some media reports, the land will not revert back to the city if the AACC committee has not secured the funding to build it in 10 years. The city and the AACC committee hope that some phase of construction will begin in five years.

The project’s 12-member executive board is supported by a 23-member Community Advisory Board composed of civic, church and business leaders, including the NAACP.

Once constructed, the AACC will be the second largest facility in the region devoted to the role of being a center for the exhibition and cultivation of Black history in a region which is rich in the subject.

The Hampton University Museum of Arts and History, according to its current curator, is 35,000 square feet and is the oldest facility of its kind in the nation.

Portsmouth has the Portsmouth Community Colored Library which features city and Black history in a 900-square feet facility in the city’s downtown area. There is also the Newsome house on the Peninsula which is about that size.

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Hammond said that a consultant has been approached to help the planning committee with fundraising efforts of various kinds starting immediately.

She said fundraising efforts will be focused not only at the Beach and regionally, but also nationally.

The facility will be located on land the city bought several years ago at 704 Hampshire Lane which is now called Lake Edward Park where currently there are basketball courts.

The facility will be accessible to the I-64 and 264 and Baker Road.

Hammond and others involved in the planning for the site point to its location near eight of the city’s historic Black neighborhoods such as Burton Station, Lake Edwards, L & J Gardens, New Light, Newsome Farms and the Newtown section, which borders Norfolk.

Hammond said that the AACC Board will coordinate its history programming and educational outreach with the Virginia Beach Public Schools system.

The board, she said. envisions, constructing an interactive walking trail which will allow patrons to experience Black history from 1619 when Blacks first arrived at the British Jamestown Colony as indentured servants to the present.

She said the facility will be a plus not only for the city culturally as a destination for locales and out of town tourists, but economically.

“It could be the catalyst for the creation of businesses and other enterprises near it,” said Hammond. “This will be bringing in people from all over the region and country.”

Hammond said that although the facility will be built on the 4.8 acre site, it will be constructed to allow for future expansion of it, if needed.

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