Why do we need innovative ideas such as the National Mall Underground?

2006 Flood
Heavy rains in June 2006 flooded Mall area museums and public buildings costing millions in damages to our national cultural treasures

The Mall faces serious challenges and needs that require creative and comprehensive solutions: improving resilience; connecting the Mall to the surrounding community; creating new space for future museums and modern mega-events such as the National Book Festival; flood control; visitor amenities such as food and restrooms; a landscape restoration plan. But none of these problems is addressed in any comprehensive way by current jurisdiction-based government plans. That’s why we’ve taken the lead and developed innovative ideas such as the National Mall Underground flood control project.

This is our generation’s task — an exciting opportunity. The National Mall Coalition advocates creation of a new McMillan-type Commission made up of big thinkers who can help us reimagine the Mall of the future that embodies the best, most creative answers to the needs of the Mall and the American people in the 21st century. Who can bring together such a commission? Congress? The American Institute of Architects as it did in 1900? Another civic minded citizens entity?

In the meantime, we’re not waiting. We’ve been collaborating with the public and with architects, planners, educators, historic preservationists, and federal and District of Columbia government agencies to come up with creative ideas. Review some of these ideas in our Innovation pages. For example:

  • In 2004, we held four public forums to engage the public in thinking about the Mall’s needs and future.  Read the findings in our Future of the National Mall report.National Mall Coalition History Events
  • At our 2005 Designing for Democracy on the 3rd Century Mall symposium at the Corcoran Gallery of Art six architects proposed designs for expanding the Mall’s boundaries to the Potomac River waterfront and in particular the island of East Potomac Park to accommodate new monuments, museums, and lively public activities. The Washington Post responded with an enthusiastic editorial.
  • Over 500 participants in our 2010-2012 National Ideas Competition for the Washington Monument Grounds re-imagined that vast unfinished expanse to be the Mall centerpiece and lush oasis it was intended to be. Learn more here and at the Ideas Competition website.
  • With our latest project, the National Mall Underground, we’ve had over 200 meetings with the public, the business community, and federal and District of Columbia leaders and planners to create an innovative multi-purpose flood control/parking facility that consolidates in one facility solutions to long-standing problems.


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