- The Washington Times - Monday, July 3, 2000

An organization called the Millennium Gate Foundation thinks "the United States should build something at this point in time, at the height of its power, prosperity and influence" to honor America's past. You know, something other than the world-renowned monuments along the National Mall and something other than the historic structures on Capitol Hill. The organization proposes that something called the Millennium Monument, and suggests Barney Circle as one possible site. But, folks, what do you think?The man behind the idea is a 43-year-old developer from Atlanta named Rodney Cook. He set up the foundation and hopes to raise $50 million to make his vision a reality. So far his kitty is $3 million. Notre Dame's School of Architecture is on board, too, helping out with possible designs (perhaps explaining why one rendering looks so, well, French). Architects began converging on this capital city last week to work with neighborhood groups and the National Capital Planning Commission, which has a say in all monuments proposed in the District.The four sites under consideration are commuter routes and three are on the fringes of Capitol Hill: Barney Circle, where the Sousa Bridge carries Pennsylvania Avenue over the Anacostia River; M and Second Streets SE, near the U.S. Navy Yard; New York and Florida Avenues NE, where a new subway station will be built; and Maryland Avenue at 14th Street NE, a few blocks from Hechinger Mall.
Some Barney Circle residents have already blessed Mr. Cook's project. "It would improve the area economically," one said. "It will improve the look around here," said another. "It adds class to the neighborhood," said yet another. Perhaps, perhaps not.
Are there drawbacks? Are there environmental concerns that must be addressed? If so, who pays for those studies? D.C. taxpayers? Federal tax dollars? The foundation? What do the businesses in the area have to say? Has anyone spoken to anyone other than the folks who live within yelling distance of Barney Circle? And what about vehicular traffic?
As a major crossroad, that area of Pennsylvania Avenue is already congested with daily commuters, traffic to and from the Southeast-Southwest Freeway and to and from 295. The Barney Circle area also is a Metrobus-Metrorail junction. Imagine the congestion and confusion during construction of the monument, which could take three to five years.
Andy Altman, director of planning for the National Capital Planning Commission, says "Something of this nature is very complex. We support the idea, but there is a large commitment to do a project like this. There is a process you have to go through." Indeed, that "process" must run its due course.
Washington is certainly a city of monuments, to great leaders, great achievements, great sacrifice. Presumably we would have room for another monument if only someone could explain exactly what it would stand for. Turning the leaf on the calendar on New Year's Eve hardly ranks up there with the rest.

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