National Park Service’s Latest Proposals in its Mall Plan

Dear Coalition Friends,

The Washington Post and the Washington Examiner report below on the National Park Service’s latest proposals in its Mall Plan and its presentation yesterday at the National Capital Planning Commission for new wayfinding signs on the Mall.

[Regarding the quote from me in the second story, I actually said: “We shouldn’t be defining the Mall by who has jurisdiction over portions (not proportions) of it, but (except) by its symbolic quality.”]


Big Changes, Renovations in Plan

Park Service Would Remove Capitol Reflecting Pool, Restore Grant Memorial

By Michael E. Ruane
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, March 5, 2009; B02

The latest vision of the Mall calls for removing the Capitol Reflecting Pool and the existing Sylvan Theater, according to a planning document unveiled this week by the National Park Service.

The D.C. War Memorial and its surrounding landscape would be restored, along with the dramatic, but weathered, sculpture of the Grant Memorial, near the reflecting pool and the west front of the U.S. Capitol.

The reflecting pool could be replaced with another water feature as part of the plan; a multipurpose entertainment facility would be built on the site of the Sylvan Theater, south of the Washington Monument.

There also would be more restrooms.

These and other changes are envisioned in the Park Service’s “preliminary preferred alternative,” the latest chapter of a Mall plan that has been evolving for more than a year. It was posted on a Park Service Web site — — this week for public comment.

Public meetings on the plan are scheduled for 5 to 7 p.m. Wednesday and noon to 2 p.m. March 14. The meetings will be at the Old Post Office, 12th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Room 107.

The final version of the plan is not expected to be formulated for another year.

The “preferred alternative” is part of the Park Service’s planning for what is officially called the National Mall & Memorial Parks, a complex that is chronically underfunded and overused and that in January hosted an estimated 3 million people during President Obama’s inauguration week.

Park officials have said the inauguration throng “obliterated” the surface grass on the Mall, although the root systems might have survived beneath the frozen ground. Only spring will tell whether the trampled grass returns.

The Mall serves as the nation’s “premier civic space,” as Susan Spain, the Mall plan project executive, puts it. As such, it is used for protests, celebrations, festivals, commemorations, inaugurations and other events, and its popularity takes a heavy physical toll.

In addition, there are insufficient restrooms; the Park Service has none east of 14th Street. And what restrooms exist are old and decrepit. The various lakes and reflecting pools are often filled with dirty, uncirculated water.

Some Mall structures, such as the open-air Sylvan Theater and the old stone Lockkeeper’s House, at 17th Street and Constitution Avenue NW, look shabby. And the Jefferson Memorial seawall has sunk six to nine inches into the Tidal Basin in the past 3 1/2 years. There is almost $400 million in deferred maintenance.

The Park Service is weighing an array of changes designed to address many of these issues long-term. The Jefferson Memorial seawall is a more immediate problem and will be addressed with funding in the near future, the Park Service says.


Planners look to give signs, maps on Mall more direction

By Lindsay Perna
Special to The Examiner 3/6/09

Regional planning officials want to use improved signs and maps to help visitors on the National Mall better navigate the historic sites.

Detailed maps and uniform signs would be part of a twofold “wayfinding” system that will better direct foot traffic on the Mall, sign designers said Thursday at a presentation to the National Capital Planning Commission.

“Excessive, mismatched signage degrades our dignified memorials and monuments,” said T. Wayne Hunt, the principal designer of the renovated signs.

Hunt developed plans for updated signs around 68 historical hot spots on a 2-mile-long, 1-mile-wide National Mall. He wants to place in strategic spots along the Mall pillars with iconic images and pointers to historical sites. His plan would consolidate signage, reducing their numbers by nearly half.

Installation would be in three phases: around the Lincoln Memorial and parts of Constitution and Independence avenues; East and West Potomac Parks; and the Washington Monument and Grant Memorial.

Commission members said they were concerned about key attractions that Hunt didn’t include on his pillars.

“Those are the most visited sites in the federal city,” said Harriet Tregoning, director of planning for the District. Tregoning said that under the proposal, visitors would be on their own to find the sites until they enter the National Park Service’s designated National Mall space.

“We shouldn’t be defining the Mall by who has jurisdiction over proportions of it, except by its symbolic quality,” said Judy Scott Feldman, the president of the National Coalition to Save Our Mall.

After the commission meeting, Hunt and Stephen Lorenzetti of the National Park Service said they would compromise by including a wider coverage area on the maps, which also would designate mileage between sites.

Hunt’s team will rework its designs and present them to the commission next month.


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