- The Washington Times - Friday, April 26, 2002

The National Capital Planning Commission has invited four firms to design a pedestrian plaza in front of the White House along the section of Pennsylvania Avenue that will remain closed to traffic indefinitely for security reasons.
"These are four of the best designers in the world, and we are confident that we will get some good ideas," said Richard Friedman, the task force's chairman.
Officials said other design firms will be able to submit proposals for the pedestrian plaza after May 17.
The commission's Interagency Security Task Force asked the firms of Balmori Associates in New York City; EDAW in Alexandria; Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates in New York City; and Peter Walker and Partners in Berkeley, Calif., to begin drawing up their blueprints in March. They are expected to introduce their designs May 17.
Mr. Friedman said the closed section of Pennsylvania Avenue needs something other than the Jersey barriers and security booths for tourists to see.
"Pennsylvania Avenue in front of the White House not only requires adequate security, but it also deserves a beautiful streetscape and distinguished public realm," he said.
The National Capital Planning Commission is the federal government's central planning agency in the District and provides guidance for federal land and buildings in the region.
Six of the 12 commission members serve on the task force, which is charged with evaluating the impact of federal security measures on the District's monuments and memorials.
The task force recommended in November to keep Pennsylvania Avenue between 15th and 17th streets NW closed to vehicles and to begin studying the construction of a tunnel under the street.
The plaza project is part of the Urban Design and Security Plan, through which the task force will identify permanent solutions to unsightly security around the District.
In addition to the Pennsylvania Avenue proposals, the task force is working with designers on plans for other parts of the city, including the Federal Triangle, the Mall, downtown, the West End and the Southwest Federal Center.
Proposals will include an array of landscape treatments and design solutions that would be implemented over the next three to five years, said Lisa MacSpadden, a spokeswoman for the planning commission.
The task force will review all designs proposed in the Urban Design and Security Plan before forwarding its recommendations to the full commission, though no date has been set. If the plan is approved, the National Capital Planning Commission will forward it to the president and to Congress.
Two of the firms invited to design the pedestrian plaza in front of the White House are also involved in other projects for the city.
The EDAW firm of Alexandria has presented plans to refurbish the pedestrian corridor along Pennsylvania Avenue between the Capitol and the White House, and the Walker team is developing designs for security improvements in the Southwest Federal Center that enhance the pedestrian experience in that area.
"Security measures have become a necessary feature of urban life in our capital city," Mr. Friedman said.
"But good security and good urban design are not incompatible, and we must find ways to move beyond the unsightly barriers and make Washington a city that truly reflects the beauty, values and spirit of America."

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