Home Is Waynesboro going to do this history museum thing, or not?

Is Waynesboro going to do this history museum thing, or not?


waynesboroThe ground work continues for a $10.4 million Virginia Museum of Natural History Waynesboro branch campus, with three possible locations still under consideration.

The leader in the clubhouse appears to be a proposed Downtown Waynesboro location. The City of Waynesboro has pitched a 2.25-acre site on the northeast corner of Constitution Park that would be a key element of a committed $1 million city contribution toward the project.

Two other locations have been evaluated in the planning phase – in the city industrial park adjacent to Exit 96 off Interstate 64, and at a privately-owned location on Lew Dewitt Boulevard.

In terms of a hint from the VMNH folks, a June 15 press release from the museum’s website seems to make clear that the downtown location is its preference. The press release was touting a $250,000 appropriation in the state budget to go toward additional planning, and it noted that the museum is to be located downtown, and quoted the city’s economic-development director, Greg Hitchin, framing the project in the context of how “revitalization of downtown is a major goal of the city.”

Which, OK, downtown revitalization had been a major goal of the city, before City Council pulled the rug out from under the first nonprofit downtown redevelopment group, Waynesboro Downtown Development Inc., then reneged on an economic-performance agreement with the Wayne Theatre (and then doubled-, tripled- and quadrupled-down on that reneging) that has thrown the future of that entity up in the air.

A 2016 City Council resolution committed the city to $1 million in cash, in-kind services and land toward the VMNH project, but with a new City Council seated earlier this month, that commitment will have to be renewed, with that having been the hang-up regarding the Wayne Theatre agreement, that it was a previous City Council that had laid out the terms of the city’s participation.

The political climate today would seem to be much more amenable to continued support for the Virginia Museum of Natural History, which according to a feasibility study would bring a projected 65,000 visitors downtown annually, with a $1.8 million annual economic impact.

It will someday soon be time for City Council to fish or cut bait, and our track record – with the Wayne Theatre, and raise your hand if you remember the minor-league baseball fiasco of 2008 – leans in favor of us being much better at cutting bait than actually getting anything done.

One day.

Column by Chris Graham



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