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Citizens Group Lobbying to Expand Washington, D.C. Mall

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 group claims.

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 coalition.

Tony Illia