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Group Quiet About $20 Million Monument

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Despite rumors that three-story-high laser beams will be part of the monument, all the council's executive director, D. Stephen Elliott, will say is, "We have a preliminary conceptual sketch. It's just that." His words echo those of former Executive Director Carol O. Negus, who in January 2001 said, "I can't tell you what the design is right now, because it's going through some tweaking."

Elliott denies rumors that the council hopes to place the monument on Chapel Island, near Ancarrow's Landing. "We're continuing to work with the city and looking at sites," he says. "That's ongoing. None have been ruled out, but we haven't decided on one yet."

Michael Dodson, real estate and marketing specialist for the city, says he knows of no plans for the little island. He says it would be possible to place a monument there, though "it would go underwater a couple times, maybe."

The Richmond-based nonprofit is also planning an education center to be built on the site of the old state capitol at 14th and Cary streets in Shockoe Bottom, now a parking lot belonging to the council.

Fund raising for the center and the statue is "going very well," Elliott says. He won't say how much money the council has, but one future source of revenue will be a row of buildings on the edge of the plot at 14th and Main. The organization bought the buildings in January from Tobacco Company owner Jerry Cable. Within two years, Elliott says, developer Lou Salomonsky will transform them into apartments and offices; the rent will contribute to the cause.

The council recorded assets of $2.8 million and an income of $500,976 last year, according to public records.

The nonprofit got a small boost this month: a $35,000 grant to organize three planning meetings in the fall for potential users of the center.

The council plans to invite scholars, then educators, then Richmonders to the meetings, Elliott says, to volunteer thoughts on what the center should be. Suggestions have ranged from reconstructing an 18th-century building to developing a modern structure.

The meetings will begin in November at the earliest, he says, but perhaps not until February. By mid-2003, Elliott adds, the council should have schematics for the building. —

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