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ACORN Threatens VCU, State with Lawsuit

"We would like to see where these conversations lead and see if we can't broker some dialogue between the city and the state," says Dotts, noting that a lawsuit would be time-consuming and expensive. "We certainly don't want to force the state to spend taxpayer money," she says.

In the draft, ACORN seeks a court injunction to prevent the demolition of VCU's West Hospital, A.D. Williams Clinic and Cabaniss Hall along 12th, Broad and Marshall streets downtown. ACORN also wants to stop the demolition of the state-owned Eighth and Ninth Street office buildings (the former Murphy Hotel and Hotel Richmond).

ACORN alleges that VCU and the state are illegally planning to level the buildings and replace them with new office buildings, parking lots and medical facilities by thwarting public input, as well as city and state law.

The state, ACORN alleges, also has failed to comply with state law that mandates "no building shall be removed from state-owned property unless approved by the Governor upon the advice of the [Art & Architectural Review Board]."

Moreover, ACORN alleges, the state is practicing what preservationists call "demolition by neglect," wherein the state neglects to maintain its historic buildings and then claims it has no choice but to demolish them.

ACORN also seeks to prevent the White House of the Confederacy from relocating, claiming such a move from its home on East Clay Street would be the equivalent — in terms of historic significance — of demolishing the house, originally built in 1818. Museum officials also have failed to comply with city and state code regarding its planned relocation, the suit alleges.

Demolishing the state properties and relocating the White House would "severely diminish the stock of historic assets that give one of America's most historic cities its unique identity and appeal as a tourist destination, home or place of business," ACORN alleges in the draft of the suit. "Because Richmond derives significant economic benefit from its historic appeal, it will be irreparably harmed by the systematic removal of these historic resources."

A VCU spokesperson, as well as an official in the office of Sandra Bowen, Gov. Mark Warner's Secretary of Administration, said copies of the legal draft had been forwarded to the attorney general's office. Officials at the Museum of the Confederacy couldn't be reached by press time. — Scott Bass

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