- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 21, 2006

The U.S. Commission of Fine Arts yesterday unanimously approved a site for a memorial to Dwight D. Eisenhower in the District, solidifying a spot near the Mall to honor the retired general and president.

“We’ve got a great new story to tell about Eisenhower,” said retired Air Force Brig. Gen. Carl W. Reddel, executive director of the Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial Commission. “What we just got today was the canvas to tell that story.”

The six members of the seven-member arts commission who voted yesterday agreed to place the memorial on a four-acre parcel at the intersection of Maryland and Independence avenues in Southwest, between Fourth and Sixth streets.

The vote was the final step in a three-year process to select a site. President Bush and Congress in May authorized the memorial to be built within the District’s “monumental core,” as designated by the National Capital Planning Commission.

The planning commission unanimously approved the site Sept. 7, with two abstentions.

Officials said the next step is the pre-design phase in which they will decide which aspects of Eisenhower’s public and private life will be featured in the memorial. They hope to build a plaza-style memorial like the World War II or Franklin Delano Roosevelt monuments in the District.

The estimated cost is $60 million to $100 million, said Daniel J. Feil, the commission’s executive architect.

Officials hope to begin designing the memorial by October 2007 and plan to hold a design competition for the plaza layout.

“The program for the memorial is complex, and the designer needs to distill that to a compelling essence that people can respond to,” said Mr. Feil, who was in charge of the design of the public buildings at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport.

The memorial will be near other U.S. landmarks that now represent key achievements of the Eisenhower administration.

The two-term president created the Department of Health, Education and Welfare. The memorial will be directly across from the Department of Education headquarters and near the National Air and Space Museum, which includes many artifacts from NASA, another agency that Mr. Eisenhower created.

Despite the unanimous vote yesterday, several members of the arts commission expressed concern about the large size of the site, the rigidity of design guidelines set by the memorial commission and potential difficulties posed by the site.

Mr. Feil acknowledged that designers face a challenge in unifying the three sections of land on the parcel into a cohesive memorial.

“The explanation of the site selection was very compelling,” Commissioner Witold Rybczynski said. “Having said that, it’s a very difficult site.”

The commission also heard testimony from the nonprofit National Coalition to Save Our Mall, which has objected to the configuration of the memorial site because it would reconfigure Maryland Avenue and close a section of it to traffic.

“When [an area] is mismanaged and neglected and is in a deplorable state, the answer is not to redesign it, close it and turn it into a memorial space,” coalition President Judy S. Feldman said after the meeting yesterday.

The coalition also has said the public discussion of the proposed site has been inadequate, an opinion memorial officials disputed.

Mr. Feil said the memorial commission has worked with the D.C. Department of Transportation on closing part of Maryland Avenue and has studies showing traffic flow improved at three of four intersections directly affected by the closing.

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