By Paul Schwartzman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, October 6, 2007
In the often carnivorous, mine-is-bigger-than-yours realm of real estate developers, Jeffrey Abramson stands apart.
If his peers are prone to huff and puff about their latest land grabs, Abramson is just as likely to talk of universal harmony. Twice a day, he sits in a chair for 20 minutes, closes his eyes and practices Transcendental Meditation.
Abramson wants to build a 12-story monument dedicated to peace and freedom -- a "Tower of Invincibility," as he calls it -- smack in the middle of Washington.
In Lafayette Square, perhaps, across the street from the country's reigning symbol of supposed invincibility, the White House. Another ideal location, Abramson said at a news conference yesterday, would be the Mall, home to memorials for World War II veterans and Abraham Lincoln. Of course, the Mall is already home to another tower, a little something known as the Washington Monument.
But Abramson is not unreasonable. If those sites are unavailable, he said, he's more than willing to look elsewhere, and he's eager for Americans to send him suggestions for a location.
"Any spot in Washington," he told reporters at the Hay-Adams Hotel, where he was flanked by a rendering of the tower, which would feature an observation deck and be surrounded by gardens.
"Wherever it lands, it will be perfect," Abramson said.
Abramson's doubters should know that his r¿sum¿ suggests a man who acts on his ideas. The list of projects that the Tower Cos., his family's real estate firm, have built include White Flint Mall and the Washington Square office complex at Connecticut Avenue and L Street NW. The D.C. Chamber of Commerce plans to present Tower with its "Business of the Year" award this month.
Abramson seemed unfazed that almost no vacant land is available in downtown Washington. Or that a senior official at the National Park Service told him that no monument can be built on the Mall. "It's not going to happen," said Bill Line, a Park Service spokesman.
If necessary, Abramson said, he will buy property and replace whatever is on it with his tower, which he said would cost no more than $10 million.
"I think it should be built now," he said. "We don't want to debate it. We don't want to wait."
The idea for the tower, Abramson said, came from Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, the purveyor of Transcendental Meditation who was a guru to the Beatles in the 1960s. Plans for similar towers, Abramson said, are underway in New Zealand, Germany and Canada.
Abramson said he hopes to discuss his vision with Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D) and "anyone who would like to see our nation as a monument to peace."
But he said he was especially interested in hearing from "citizens of America" before choosing a location. As of yesterday morning, he said, he had received several hundred suggestions on his Web site. Besides the Mall, ideas included the former Washington Convention Center site and the George Washington Parkway near Mount Vernon.
Abramson said he plans to take suggestions for the next month, but he acknowledged that the final decision will be his. "I'm a builder," he reminded his audience. "I know what to do."