- The Washington Times - Friday, February 1, 2008

The W.K. Kellogg Foundation will give $3 million to help push to completion the long-planned memorial to Martin Luther King on the Mall.

The group typically does not fund construction projects, but foundation officials said the King memorial stood out.

“The larger issue here isn’t monuments or memorials, it is building a stronger democracy and achieving racial equity,” said Sterling K. Speirn, president of the Battle Creek, Mich.-based foundation, which was started by the Kellogg breakfast-cereal pioneer in 1930.

The Kellogg gift, announced Wednesday, brings fundraising to $90 million of the $100 million needed to complete the memorial. Project officials declined to say, however, how much they have in the bank.

Some of the funds have been spent on administrative costs, said Harry Johnson, president of the foundation overseeing the project. But he declined to give a specific number, saying the costs amounted to less than $6 million over seven years.

The National Park Service has strict rules governing construction on its land. It requires that the memorial foundation have at least $85.5 million for building and maintenance costs before the start of construction.

With help from lenders and banks, Mr. Johnson said there is enough funding available to begin construction this spring. Other large donations are expected to be announced next month, he said.

The expected completion date was delayed, from late 2008 to late 2009, because of complications with the design and building permits. It will take 18 to 20 months to build the 4-acre memorial plaza on the Tidal Basin once construction begins.

“We want to push ourselves and we want to stay on track,” Mr. Johnson said. “We’re very pleased that we’re pretty close.”

The memorial will sit between the Jefferson Memorial and Lincoln Memorial, where the civil rights pioneer delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech in 1963. It will feature a large stone sculpture by a Chinese artist of King emerging from a block of granite and stone walls engraved with quotes.

A ceremonial groundbreaking was held in November 2006 with the goal of a 2008 opening. The event drew thousands to the Mall, including President Bush, former President Bill Clinton and many celebrities.

Fundraising for the memorial has been sluggish at times, in part because of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and later the tsunami in Southeast Asia and Hurricane Katrina, Mr. Johnson said.

The Kellogg Foundation gift is the memorial fund’s largest from a private foundation. A majority of the funding has come from corporations, but schools, churches and individual donors have contributed as well.

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