Wednesday, April 11, 2007

The District’s planners suggested yesterday that areas throughout the city be beautified to look like the Mall to make them ready for monuments and museums.

The Framework Plan calls on Congress to support redesign with landscaping, fountains and plazas in a way that complements the Mall’s legacy.

Some of the nation’s top city planners and architects discussed the plan yesterday at the National Building Museum.

About 74 museums and 155 memorials dot Washington’s landscape. Previous proposals to locate museums and memorials anywhere other than the Mall have been met with resistance.

“Memorial and museum sponsors don’t want to accept locations scattered across the city,” said Judy Scott Feldman, chairwoman of the National Coalition to Save Our Mall. “They want the Mall. Off-Mall locations seem to confer second-class status.”

The National Capital Planning Commission, the federal government’s planning agency for the District, has tried for a decade to direct proposed monuments to sites away from the Mall, such as along North, South and East Capitol streets. The efforts often were lost in bickering between the federal government and the District about where to build.

The commission has identified 100 off-Mall sites for monuments or museums, including a proposed Hispanic-American museum, a national health museum and a museum honoring women.

Ms. Feldman suggested a new option yesterday: expanding the Mall.

Federal property such as East Potomac Park, South Capitol Street and the land across the Potomac River in Virginia could be connected to the Mall through bridges, pedestrian paths and bicycle paths, she said.

“This wouldn’t require tearing down parts of the city as was done during urban renewal in the 1950s,” Ms. Feldman said.

One architect’s proposal shows a relocation of the Supreme Court to a site near the Jefferson Memorial, forming a triangle with the Capitol and the White House to illustrate the separation of powers.

Congress must approve any expansion of the Mall as well as new national monuments.

Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, a Democrat and the District’s nonvoting member of Congress, has supported Mall expansion plans, but no legislation has been introduced.

So far, the proposal is “just ours,” Ms. Feldman said.

Civic groups say memorials should not stray far from the Washington Monument, but private developers insist they need the limited space downtown for more office buildings.

The result is a “highly charged” dispute over choosing memorials while trying to carry on day-to-day business in Washington, said Lawrence J. Vale, an urban studies and planning professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

The National Museum of African-American History and Culture at 14th Street and Constitution Avenue is the last museum planned for the Mall. It is in the design stage.

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