September 13, 2005
America's great front yard, the National
Mall, was declared "a finished work of civic art"
by Congress in 2003, resulting in a building moratorium along
the iconic green sward lined with museums, monuments, and
memorials. But a non-profit citizens group now wants to enlarge
the 725-acre Mall area by up to 50 percent.
"The Mall was intended to be an ever-evolving, open,
public space dedicated to the expression of democracy,"
says Judy Scott Feldman, chairman of the National Coalition
to Save Our Mall.
The group cites the work of a 1901 commission, led by Senator
James McMillan of Michigan, that extended the Mall west and
south of the Washington Monument, selected a site for the
Lincoln Memorial, and created what became the East and West
Potomac parks. The coalition also believes a new coordinated
master plan is needed to ensure the Mall's survival for the
next 100 years. Mall management is currently divided between
six government agencies, each with conflicting agendas, the
Image courtesy National
Coalition To Save Our Mall
Its proposed plan would extend the Mall from the Lincoln
Memorial three miles along the waterfront to East Potomac
Park's Hains Point; create a spur from the Capitol down South
Capitol Street; and add pedestrian, bicycle and vehicle links
to the sites along with a brief span over Virginia's Potomac
River bank. It would also create room for 51 memorial projects
and four major museums.
Not everyone agrees with the idea. "We defined and completed
the Mall in 2003," responds John V. Cogbill III, National
Capital Planning Commission chairman. "The Mall has fixed
boundaries. That's where we have a philosophical difference
with this plan. I think we need to take the concepts and expand
it in other areas."
But existing plans to scatter memorials across the city only
isolates and dilutes the Mall's relevance, Feldman believes,
while an increased Mall would boost its historical and cultural
value. The National Park Service, meanwhile, is planning to
draft a broad management plan next spring in response to the