Topic A: What would you do to change America’s front yard?

Dear Coalition Friends:

On Sunday, July 4th, The Washington Post featured in its “Topic A” opinion section the future of the National Mall.


Topic A

What would you do to change America’s front yard?

Sunday, July 4, 2010; A13
Below, Judy Scott Feldman, Ken Salazar, Caroline Cunningham and James P. Clark share their visions for how to upgrade, expand or change the federal lands in the heart of our nation’s capital.

Chair of the National Coalition to Save Our Mall

It’s time to expand the Mall. Doing so could solve Congress’s need to protect the historical Mall’s limited open space while providing new locations for museums and memorials. Expansion down South Capitol Street, across to Hains Point and onto federal land along the Potomac and Anacostia rivers offers opportunities to reconnect the Mall’s open space to surrounding neighborhoods and waterfront. It would give dramatic new life to an economic engine for the city and the region. It would provide space for future museums and public events to tell the evolving story of American history. It will be a gift to future generations.

Mall expansion requires vision and visionary thinkers. Two centuries ago, President George Washington chose Peter L’Enfant, who laid out the Mall as a grand symbol of American founding principles. In 1901, Sen. James McMillan (R-Mich.) called upon Daniel Burnham and the McMillan Commission. The McMillan Plan expanded the Mall onto landfill to tell, with the Lincoln Memorial, the story of our nation’s evolving identity.

As we celebrate July 4th, the president and Congress should assemble an independent group of visionaries to help us create the next great expansion, a 21st-century Mall.

Secretary of the interior

Since President Obama was inaugurated on the Capitol steps 18 months ago, the Mall has begun to undergo the most significant rehabilitation and change in generations because, in recent years, the Mall’s appearance has simply not matched its national importance. There is a backlog of deferred maintenance; civic space is not able to support constant heavy use; circulation and transportation systems are outdated; and facilities and services are not sufficient.

To address these challenges, we are launching a long-term, comprehensive National Mall Plan that will respectfully rehabilitate and modernize the space while protecting its historic character.

Visitors to the Mall will see the condition and appearance of open spaces improved; smarter distribution of services and facilities; better event infrastructure that reduces the need for trucks and trailers on-site; improved access, model energy and recycling systems; and improved surfaces for pedestrians, joggers, pickup sports, athletic leagues and picnics.

These changes will build on the historic investments that are rehabilitating the Thomas Jefferson Memorial, the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool and the District of Columbia War Memorial. They will also complement new additions to the Mall, such as the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial.

The new chapter we are opening for America’s front yard is visionary, respectful of our heritage and will be appreciated for generations to come.

President, Trust for the National Mall

The Mall is where Americans come to remember our history, honor our heroes and share our hopes for the future. But it has become a national disgrace. The reflecting pools are stagnant and filled with algae. The Tidal Basin seawall is sinking. The Great Lawn is threadbare. There are not enough facilities to manage the volume of visitors. Because the National Park Service has not had sufficient resources to care for the Mall for more than 30 years, the price tag for maintenance and improvement projects exceeds $700 million.

With Interior Secretary Ken Salazar’s leadership and support from Capitol Hill, repair work at the Jefferson Memorial has started and restoration of the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool and landscape will begin soon. A recycling project funded by Coca-Cola is also being installed. But that’s just a start.

We should recommit ourselves to fully funding the restoration and improvement of America’s front yard and ensure that it is maintained to the same standard we place on the values it embodies.

Chairman of the steering committee for the National Ideas Competition of the Washington Monument

The Washington Monument continues to be the defining feature of the District’s skyline and the centerpiece of the nation’s most symbolic public open space. But at ground level its vast space remains unfinished. While recent work on this cultural landscape by the Olin Studio has brought an unprecedented level of elegance, security and accessibility to the space, historic plans for the area around the monument suggest that this large, open space could have broader use and symbolic interpretation. For many visitors to the Mall, this is an empty field that is uncomfortably hot in the summer and cold in the winter.

At the beginning of the last century, a panel of distinguished American designers and planners recommended a vision for the entire Mall, including these grounds, which they regarded as the “gem of the Mall system.” Their plans were never fully realized. The classically designed terraced gardens the McMillan Plan envisioned would have formed a context for the monument signifying the values of that time.

We need not simply see through this old vision for the Washington Monument area. This fall we are inviting the public to submit ideas about how this landscape can continue to tell our uniquely American story in our National Ideas Competition for the Washington Monument Grounds. No matter what, this significant space and what it can teach us cannot be forgotten.


More Posts in 2010 Archive