I'm talking about our National Mall -- the one you've undoubtedly visited when in Washington, D.C.
Congress has agreed with the National Capital Planning Commission (more about this unique planning commission in a minute) that no more memorials can be squeezed into what NCPC director Patricia Gallagher refers to as the "monumental core."
But the NCPC staff have come up with an innovative game plan, so to speak. Called the National Capital Framework Plan, it turns the bad news about the Mall into good news for Washington, DC (and, hopefully, visitors from across the country) by calling for other areas to become the home to future memorials. And one thing that was perfectly clear from the NCPC staff: there's no shortage of demand for new national memorials.
Here's an illustration from the Plan. While it may be hard to read, in essence it sets out priority areas for new monuments, memorials & museums (the small orange dots) -- because of my cropping, many potential sites are not visible in this image.
The trick will be to make these locations appealing to groups who want to locate new memorials. (I've highlighted the Banneker Overlook location mentioned in the following paragraph with a yellow circle).
A prime site which NCPC staff showed me is Banneker Overlook -- it offers a sweeping view of the Anacostia River & Virginia, and is just a few blocks south of the Mall. The problem right now is that it's not visually appealing. Just take a look. You have the freeway & its noise nearby; and you have a dreary stretch of 10th Street with the Forrestal Building to the north.
But talking from my own experience of having worked for the National Park Service, there are some very creative planners and designers at work for the federal government who can convert just about any location into something very attractive. Of course, that's with the caveat that there's a good chunk of change available to accomplish this!
There are already several "off the Mall" monuments in the works. One we passed by is the future site of the Dwight Eisenhower Memorial. Right now it's a triangular piece of land (mainly parking lot) in front of the Department of Education Building on Maryland Avenue facing the Air & Space Museum.
We also visited the spectacular new Air Force Memorial, located close to the Pentagon. It was designed by the late James Freed, who also was responsible for the Holocaust Museum. While I was there, a ceremony was taking place. You can get a sense of the scale of the towering spires -- reaching 270 feet into the sky --from that photo. The sculpture near the spires is by Zenos Frudakis. While I didn't find this nearly as inspirational, I know that many visitors appreciate this kind of sculptural work.
Before closing, just a word about the National Capital Planning Commission. There's surely no planning commission like it in the U.S. How about a Commission that includes: three Presidential appointees; the Mayor of Washington, D.C. and two mayoral appointees; the House & Senate chairs of their respective Government Affairs Committees; the Administrator of the General Services Administration; the Secretary of the Interior; the Secretary of Defense; and I'm probably even leaving someone out! Yes, these big wigs are usually represented at Commission meetings by their designees. But it's still quite a lineup.
As NCPC Executive Director Patricia Gallagher explained, the idea is for the NCPC to serve as a bridge between the City and the various Federal agencies. The NCPC has a number of project review functions, which there's no room to report on here. But they've definitely come up with some creative planning concepts, that should benefit us all.
Photo of NCPC staff: back row from left to right: Stephen Staudigl; Lois Schiffer; Christine Saum; Elizabeth Miller; Rollin MacElroy. Seated: Deputy Executive Director Marcel Acosta and Executive Director Patricia Gallagher.