November 10, 2005
A 'Third Century' Mall
Citizens group envisions expansion
By Karen DeWitt
Examiner Senior Correspondent
Congress officially placed a construction moratorium on the National Mall in 2003, effectively closing it to any more monuments or buildings, but a group of citizens now hope to reopen it, expand it, make it more visitor-friendly and get one entity - not the current seven agencies - to oversee the nation's front yard.
"The National Mall is treated as a collection of parts. Each agency respects the power and authority of the others, but no one has the best interest of the Mall at heart," said Judy Scott Feldman, president of the National Coalition to Save Our Mall.
Feldman initially thought about forming a conservancy group, like that for New York's Central Park, but discovered there was no single vision for the Mall, even though the number of tourists there is expected to double over the next several years.
As a result, the coalition, a collaboration of citizen volunteers, has given birth to The National Mall Third Century Initiative.
The coalition is focused more on ideas, opening up a national debate about the future of the nation's public space, than in definitive plans, said architect W. Kent Cooper, coordinator for the coalition. Various design plans include putting up docks around East Potomac Park so boats and ferries could moor there, adding bicycle paths, and generally upgrading the existing Mall to make it more user friend.
On Dec. 7, the group will unveil some of its ideas at the Corcoran Gallery of Art, but the various architectural renderings will also be available on the organization's Web site at www.nationalmall.net.
"The whole Mall has become a stage for democracy," said Cooper, who testified about the issue before a Senate subcommittee earlier this year. "We're trying to create the spaces for major new memorials. ... Congress is waiting to see."
However, the issue is a closed book for at least one agency.
The National Park Service "believes that the National Mall is a completed work of civic art and that has been our position for some time," said Bill Line, chief public affairs spokesman for the National Capitol Region of the NPS.
The National Mall
- The 1791 plan was designed by Pierre Charles L'Enfant.
- The 1900 McMillan commission plan reflects present Mall structure.
- The Mall is specifically the land stretching from the Washington Monument to the United States Capitol.
- More popularly, it includes the entire area between the Lincoln Memorial and the Capitol.
- Also sometimes included in the Mall are West Potomac Park and Constitution Gardens, areas the National Coalition to Save Our Mall would like to see better incorporated into an expanded Mall.