Richmond officials are in talks with a Detroit-based architectural firm to develop plans to turn the dormant archaeological remains of Lumpkin’s Jail in Shockoe Bottom into a museum.
The city issued a notice this week that it intends to award the project to SmithGroupJJR, a co-designer of the just-opened National Museum of African American History and Culture on the National Mall in Washington.
At this point, other details surrounding the contract — such as the cost of the work or the names of subcontractors that may be part of the team — are not available.
“Right now, the matter is still considered an active procurement and only other bidders are privy to any details,” said Mayor Dwight C. Jones’ press secretary, Tammy Hawley. “As I understand it, in 10 days, I’ll be able to be more specific. We will follow up then.”
Jones’ administration has been actively pursuing the development of the site since he announced it as part of a larger development proposal in 2013 for Shockoe Bottom.
While the larger plan ultimately was unsuccessful after widespread opposition to the construction of a baseball stadium in the area, the city secured state funding for the slavery memorial component and continued working on the project.
The city has a total of $19 million in available local and state funds for the project.
Archaeologists have called the site “a unique archaeological treasure” that preserves the foundation and flooring of a notorious slave jail at the center of the city’s slave trade.
In a request for proposals directed to architecture and engineering firms issued in March, the city said it is seeking a company that can design and develop a museum and exhibits for the facility.
As part of the work, the firm is required to provide a museum development consultant who would work with the city; hold eight public meetings; develop a master plan for the museum and its operations; and develop a budget for its first five years of operation.
A separate museum exhibit consultant would design exhibits and create related educational content and a website for the site, according to the documents.
As Jones’ administration pursues the Lumpkin’s site, some residents have continued to push for a broader memorial park in Shockoe Bottom.
At a City Council meeting in September, about two dozen people stood behind the head of the Richmond branch of the NAACP as she urged the council to endorse the alternative plan.
In June, a team of designers from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst worked with Richmond residents to design a memorial in Shockoe Bottom that includes a grove of lighted towers, a public square and an interactive wall displaying the names of the enslaved who passed through.
A loose coalition of community groups voted to support the project, but it has yet to win significant support among elected officials.