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VCU Offering to Buy Museum?

He chooses his words carefully.

"We are having discussions with them and clearly the financial ramifications are part of the discussion," says Rawls, declining to answer the VCU purchase question directly. "I'd just as soon not answer that."

Ditto for J.E.B. Stuart IV, chairman of the board of trustees that governs the museum. He says he isn't at liberty to discuss any potential cash offers.

"There's been no total agreement," he says, adding that VCU has discussed how much it might be willing to pay if the university took control of the property. "Obviously, that is part of the discussion," he says.

The future of the museum, which includes the White House and an exhibit building next door, and the future of VCU Medical Center are at odds. Rawls and Stuart say tourism traffic has been steadily declining with all of the development around it, and will only worsen with VCU's latest plans to expand the campus. Meanwhile, VCU desperately needs to expand and rebuild in order to accommodate growth and rewire for the latest in medical technologies.

If VCU has made an offer, says Pam Lepley, director of university news services, she wouldn't be at liberty to discuss it. Lepley says the university is operating as if the museum is going nowhere.

"We are proceeding with our plans that include the museum and the White House staying right where they are," she says. "Right now, from our vantage point, they have the ball in their court."

Rawls says the museum has solicited input from its vast base of members. The museum has three options: Stay put, move and take the house with them, or move and sell the property and the building.

So far, Rawls says, the least favored option, according to member responses, would be to move the museum but not move the Davis house. "We're looking at a whole bunch of options," Rawls says. — Scott Bass

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