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The new expansion plans come more than 10 years after the Kennedy Center announced a major project to build two new buildings and a plaza over a nearby freeway to connect the center with the National Mall. The $650 million project was essentially canceled in 2005 after budget constraints forced Congress to eliminate $400 million in federal funding for the project.

Kaiser envisioned a museum of the performing arts as part of that project. Now, he said, the center can plan future exhibition galleries in its main building as education programs and rehearsals move to the new facilities.

Rubenstein, a billionaire businessman and a former vice chairman of New York City’s Lincoln Center, said the Kennedy Center has been limited by its building over the years. So he wanted to plan a realistic project that could be privately funded without relying on Congress. As the federal budget tightens, Rubenstein said more Americans should consider supporting nonprofit federal entities like the center.

Rubenstein’s gift is the largest in the center’s history. Combined with previous gifts, he has donated $75 million, making him the center’s largest donor.

Adding a garden and outdoor pavilions will make the center more inviting, Rubenstein said.

“Rarely do people say in Washington, `I’m going to go over and spend a couple hours at the Kennedy Center,’” Rubenstein said, noting it’s often an evening destination for shows. But that will change, he said. “What we wanted to do was to remind people that this is a living memorial to a president.”

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Kennedy Center: http://www.kennedy-center.org

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