Architect Phil Freelon’s firm to finish NC Freedom Park in Raleigh

News & Observer

February 22, 2017

Durham architect Phil Freelon announced Wednesday that his group will undertake completion of the stalled N.C. Freedom Park in downtown Raleigh to honor the contributions of African-Americans to the state.

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Durham architect Phil Freelon announced Wednesday that his group will undertake completion of the stalled N.C. Freedom Park in downtown Raleigh to honor the contributions of African-Americans to the state.

Speaking at a luncheon in Raleigh, Freelon said that he expects the project to be completed in 18 to 24 months, depending on funding. Luncheon organizers handed out a brochure that indicated the park is expected to be completed by 2020.

The Freedom Park has been in the works since 2002, when the Paul Green Foundation held a series of public discussions with the aim of establishing a monument to reflect the African-American experience in the state. In 2006, the Freedom Park committee identified a proposed site at Wilmington and Lane streets, just east of the Legislative Building, and money was allocated for it in the state budget. But the recession halted those plans and the project sputtered.

The N.C. Freedom Park’s board of directors asked Perkins+Will, which acquired The Freelon Group in 2014, to submit a design proposal for the project to replace a preliminary design concept that was adopted in 2008. The earlier design, which emphasized the impact of slavery, Jim Crow and the struggle for freedom, was withdrawn in 2015 after a focus group recommended a more uplifting theme reflecting changes in race relations in the state over the past 50 years.

“We got feedback from donors and other board members who thought that the times have changed and it should not be a monument to be focusing on slavery, Jim Crow and Reconstruction,” said David Warren, the board’s co-chair. “It’s time to build upon the positive steps we have made in race relations. Barack Obama was not president when the first design was submitted. His legacy has had a big impact on our thinking. It’s not so much about looking back as looking forward that’s symbolized by hope and optimism, and that’s what Phil Freelon picked up on.”

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