- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 7, 2006

A commission charged with creating a memorial to President Dwight D. Eisenhower is steadily progressing with plans to place an icon to “Ike” near the Mall.

“It’s been some time since Eisenhower’s presidency, and there still is a reservoir of interest, support and goodwill on behalf of what we’re doing,” said retired Air Force Brig. Gen. Carl W. Reddel, executive director of the Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial Commission.

Preparations for an Eisenhower memorial began in 1999, when Congress created the commission, which includes four senators, representatives and presidential appointees.

Since then, the commission has pared down 26 potential memorial locations to one preferred site: a four-acre plaza at the intersection of Maryland and Independence avenues in Southwest.

The site already has gained the approval of the National Capital Memorial Advisory Commission (NCMAC) and officials hope the National Capital Planning Commission and the U.S. Commission on Fine Arts will approve it this fall.

President Bush and Congress authorized the memorial to be built in Area 1 — the District’s “monumental core” designated by the Memorials and Museums Master Plan — last month, and an environmental assessment of the site is scheduled to be completed this month and presented to the public June 17.

Using all four acres of the site would mean closing a diagonal section of Maryland Avenue that cuts through the parcel, but officials said they have kept the D.C. Department of Transportation informed of potential plans and have not met any resistance.

“We have not encountered anyone who has put up a roadblock,” Gen. Reddel said.

Officials have set a goal of having the entire project finished within six years — an optimistic aim potentially possible because of the memorial’s location near the already monument-crowded Mall, not on it.

“If this was on the Mall, there are many more constraints to what you can develop because you have to be very respectful of the grounds there,” said Daniel J. Feil, the commission’s executive architect who was in charge of the design of the public buildings at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport. Here, “you can’t go hog wild, but you can have a more expressive building.”

The site — directly across from the National Air and Space Museum and close to the federal Education and Transportation departments — is a fitting choice to honor Eisenhower’s legacy, since the 34th president created NASA, the Department of Health, Education and Welfare and the Federal Aviation Administration.

“In this case, it wasn’t just trying to find virgin sites, so to speak. It was also trying to integrate with what was going on in the area,” Mr. Feil said. “There was just so much that made this site work thematically.”

Officials have not yet determined the monument’s design, but said a plaza-type memorial akin to the World War II Memorial is the type of tribute they hope to build.

The commission “wants this memorial in its totality to tell the Eisenhower story, which is a great story, and tell it in the context of the American story,” Gen. Reddel said. “A memorial should be something that enables Americans to participate in their own history, including their heroes. Eisenhower was one of those great citizen heroes.”

Eisenhower was born in Denison, Texas, but raised in Abilene, Kan. He rose from his humble beginnings to become a West Point graduate and an officer in World War I, before being named commander of the Allied Expeditionary Forces during World War II and ordering the D-Day assault.

Eisenhower’s two-term presidency, from 1953 to 1961, is a lesser-known history that officials hope to emphasize at the memorial. Among other accomplishments, he created the Interstate Highway System and began the security policies that led to the peaceful end of the Cold War in 1989.

“He showed us we can do it,” Gen. Reddel said. “And he’s an example of how it can be done.”

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