Since 2000, the National Mall Coalition (formerly National Coalition to Save Our Mall) has made strides in educating the public, Congress, and government agencies with jurisdiction over the Mall about the Mall’s history and planning legacy, as well as in promoting thoughtful, intelligent planning to ensure the Mall continues its important 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 2004, the Coalition launched the National Mall 3rd Century Initiative to engage the public in thinking about short-term and comprehensive long-term planning and to propose innovative solutions to modern needs not addressed on 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 “The Future of the National Mall.” Visit the website for this early project at http://www.nationalmall.net .
At the Coalition’s “Designing for Democracy” public forum at the Corcoran Gallery of Art in 2005, 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, 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.
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. Visit the website at http://www.wamocompetition.org .
In 2012 we mounted two public exhibitions at the American Institute of Architects, one focused on the 3rd Century Mall concept and the other on the process and winners of the Washington Monument Competition, to further engage the public in an ongoing conversation about the Mall’s future.
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 Airport.