Letter from the Chair

December 2022

Dear Friends of the National Mall,

With the National Mall coming strongly back to life after two years of covid, our popular Mall mini-map and historical guide, “The National Mall: Stage For Our Democracy,” is back in demand. Pick up your free copies at Dulles and Reagan Washington National Airport – the Traveler’s Aid desk.

Through our advocacy since our founding in 2000, the Coalition has succeeded in encouraging the public, Congress, and government agencies to think creatively about the future of the Mall.

One success is that government agencies now call the Mall America’s “stage.” Our Mall map first edition came out in 2005, at a time government agencies and the public referred to the Mall as a historic landscape, a symbolic landscape, a collection of national monuments and museums. We called the Mall instead a “Stage For Our Democracy” to focus on the public open space and the role of Americans in making history there every day. I’m happy to say that now the stage metaphor has been adopted by others, from the National Park Service (the 2010 National Mall Plan) to members of Congress. The Mall’s purpose as civic stage is now taking a more prominent role in conversations about how to think about and plan the future of this great national public open space.

Another success is talk of extending the Mall. The Coalition first proposed in 2004 to expand the Mall boundaries to accommodate future needs, including museums and monuments. Expanding the Mall is now on the lips of culture critics as well as government agencies. The Washington Post’s Philip Kennicott, writing in opposition to the Smithsonian’s choice of new museum sites on the Mall, at the same time proposed “The Mall, hemmed in by office buildings, could become more porous and grow.” Even as the National Capital Planning Commission also was criticizing the Smithsonian’s choice of sites during its September meeting, some commissioners acknowledged that maybe the Mall boundaries could grow. How, where?

In fact, the National Mall has never been officially or legally defined. Any change of boundaries should happen not willy-nilly but as part of a unified, comprehensive design for an expanded Mall. A commission of architects, engineers, and landscape architects – like the 1902 McMillan Commission that created the plan for the Mall we know today – could begin the work as soon as Congress agrees to create such a commission. Now is the time to get this done.

Mall advocacy can be slow going, we know. But when you have good ideas that actually try to meet needs, get beyond agency-by-agency plans and piecemeal approaches to problems, eventually you may prevail, as the Coalition has proved.

So please help us keep up our success — and help us find new solutions to ensure the Mall has the optimistic future where Americans tell their story, make history, experience our attempts to improve our democracy, and leave a hopeful vision for future generations.

Sincerely,

Judy Feldman signature

Judy Scott Feldman, PhD
Chair, National Mall Coalition
[email protected] / 301-335-8490