The National Mall Coalition was founded in 2000 by a group of architects, historians, preservationists, educators, and concerned citizens seeking to provide, in the face of fragmented government management, a voice for the public interest in Mall matters.
The mission of the National Mall Coalition (formerly National Coalition to Save Our Mall), a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, is to provide an organized voice for the public on National Mall matters; to advocate comprehensive, visionary planning for the National Mall in the 3rd century; and to work in collaboration with government, nonprofits, and the business sector to implement forward-looking improvements that will ensure the vitality, beauty, and continued active role of this national treasure in the capital and in American life.
We have made great strides in educating the public, Congress, and government agencies about the critical importance of the Mall’s history and planning legacy, and in promoting thoughtful, intelligent planning to ensure the Mall continues its foundational role in American democracy.
Our work has included: educating government and the public in personal briefings and on our website; delivering testimony before Congress and government review agencies on Mall projects to support protection of the historic plans; holding public forums to engage the public in discussing the Mall’s future; collaborating with other nonprofits to build support for Mall improvements and to oppose destructive projects; and proposing creative solutions to Mall problems not being addressed by existing Mall managing agencies.
The Washington Post editorial board has enthusiastically endorsed Coalition ideas including Mall expansion (in 2005), creation of a new McMillan-type commission to prepare the 3rd Century Mall plan (in 2008), and the National Mall Underground flood control/public access proposal (in 2013).
In 2003, the Coalition launched the National Mall 3rd Century Initiative to actively engage the public in short-term and comprehensive long-term planning and to propose innovative solutions to modern needs not addressed in Mall managing agency plans. That year, to raise public awareness and gather public input about the future of the Mall, we held four public forums at George Washington University and published the findings in 2004 in “The Future of the National Mall.” Review an illustrated presentation about the need for the 3rd Century Mall initiative and ideas developed since 2004 for the future of the Mall in this website’s “Innovation” section.
In 2005, at the Coalition’s “Designing for Democracy” public forum at the Corcoran Gallery of Art, we invited 6 architects to show concepts for expanding the Mall, what we call the “3rd Century Mall,” to provide new space for future museums and public activities while protecting the historical Mall. The focus of all 6 designers was the underutilized island of East Potomac Park on which the Jefferson Memorial is located.
In 2008, we published Rethinking the National Mall which described our evolving thinking about the 3rd Century Mall. In addition, the Coalition worked with graduate students at George Mason University who prepared a Mall circulation study that identified problems with pedestrian circulation, public transportation, parking, and general access to the monuments, museums, and cultural activities. That study and its recommendations for better circulation planning and options laid the groundwork for our continuing efforts to improve access and circulation including development of the National Mall Underground proposal in 2013 and 2014.
In 2009, drawing upon our ongoing outreach to the public in meetings and public forums, as well as ideas by Coalition Board members and leadership, we proposed design and program ideas for how the Mall could be improved in Renewing American Democracy on the 3rd Century Mall. One action item in that 2009 report was to organize a public competition for the unfinished Washington Monument Grounds to educate the public about Mall history and engage citizens of all ages in thinking creatively about the future of the Mall. This became a major project for the next two years.
Another new project we started in 2009 was educational self-guided Mall tours, first proposed in our Renewing American Democracy report. We published our first tour, America’s Struggle For Freedom, as a downloadable (from our website), two page guide. Following this tour visitors visit key memorials — Jefferson, George Mason, FDR, and Lincoln — to explore the themes of the Declaration of Independence, Bill of Right, Four Freedoms, and Civic Rights.
Beginning in 2010 and ending with announcement of a People’s Choice winner in 2012, the Coalition sponsored, with George Washington University and many other educational institutions, a National Ideas Competition for the Washington Monument Grounds. The competition drew more than 500 participants from across the country and around the world. Contestants were asked to honor the historic L’Enfant and McMillan plans while creating new ways to make the barren, unwelcoming Washington Monument grounds the Mall centerpiece and oasis it was intended to be. Learn more about the Competition here. Also, you can visit the dedicated Competition website at http://www.wamocompetition.org .
In 2012 we exhibited concepts for the 3rd Century Mall at the national AIA Convention (American Institute of Architects) held in Washington at the DC Convention Center. In addition we mounted a two-part public exhibition at the District Architecture Center, offices of the Washington Chapter of the American Institute of Architects, to further engage the local public in an ongoing conversation about the Mall’s future. Half of this exhibit focused on the 3rd Century Mall concept, the other on the process and winners of the Washington Monument Competition.
Since 2011, we have been developing the National Mall Underground flood control/public access project in consultation with government agencies and business and civic groups. We see this as a realizable project that will be a first step toward realizing comprehensive, collaborative planning for the Mall that benefits the public and all Mall constituencies.
Ongoing day-to-day activities by members of the Board include participating in and collaborating with other organizations on: public meetings for Mall-related projects, preparing and presenting thoughtful testimony to Congress and during design review hearings, and informing the public via our website and email updates of relevant Mall issues. The Coalition has been part of the public consultation process in recent years for numerous projects including Washington Monument security, the National Museum of African American History and Culture, the Vietnam Memorial Visitors Center, the National Park Service’s National Mall Plan, the Smithsonian’s South Mall Campus Master Plan, and security for many museums, monuments, and public buildings. The Coalition is often quoted in the media as a voice for the public interest on these government-drive projects.
Educational outreach since 2000 includes hundreds of free public talks by the Chair Judy Scott Feldman on the history and future of the Mall to school and civic groups, Elderhostel, Road Scholar, the Trust for the National Mall, and others. Working with interns from George Washington University, the Chair developed the first of a proposed series of self-guided tours of the Mall focusing on civic themes. This “America’s Struggle For Freedom” tour, printable from our website on one 8 x 11 sheet of paper, uses the Jefferson, George Mason, FDR, and Lincoln Memorial to explore concepts of the Revolution, Declaration of Independence, US Constitution, Bill of Rights, Four Freedoms, and Civil War/Civil Rights. Our 2009 report proposes 7 additional tours on different themes intended to educate and build civic knowledge.
Another very popular project of public outreach is our mini-map “National Mall: Stage for Our Democracy.” This pocket-sized map is the only Mall map to show the entire Mall as envisioned in the historic L’Enfant and McMillan Plans and to tell the inspiring story of public use of the open space through time for civil rights, First Amendment, and other activities. Since 2005, we have distributed over 220,000 maps, primarily at three main locations: Congressional offices, through the service First Call; Ronald Reagan National Airport; and Dulles International