Correction to This Article
The newspaper edition of this July 10 article included an incorrect Web site for viewing the National Capital Framework Plan. The correct site is This version has been corrected.

A Vision of Washington With Unfettered Views

The plan calls for a series of bridges and a boardwalk to improve access from the city to East Potomac Park.
The plan calls for a series of bridges and a boardwalk to improve access from the city to East Potomac Park. (2005 Photo By Gerald Martineau -- The Washington Post)
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By Michael E. Ruane
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, July 10, 2008

Imagine the drab fortress of the FBI building gone, the freeways and ramps around the Kennedy Center covered by parks and boulevards, and a Metro stop near the Jefferson Memorial.

Picture the middle section of the massive Forrestal building on Independence Avenue removed to open views of the Smithsonian Castle, a canal cut through East Potomac Park, new water taxi service, boardwalks, memorials, pedestrian bridges and leafy vistas.

The "monumental core" of Washington's future is more open and inviting, less fettered and cut up by highways and railroads, and more integrated into an elegant whole under a sweeping vision to be unveiled today by the District's two federal planning and review agencies.

The National Capital Framework Plan is highly critical of much of the 1960s and 1970s-era construction that surrounds the Mall, at turns calling it "hostile," "unwelcoming" and "imposing."

It envisions four transformed sections of downtown Washington as extensions of the Mall, linking such locales as the White House with the riverfront and the Kennedy Center with the Lincoln Memorial.

The plan, which has been two years in the making, is the work of the National Capital Planning Commission and the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts. It is a mix of new and old ideas, some versions of which have been floated before and died for lack of congressional funding.

Many of the suggestions would require enormous sums of money at a time when the national economy is faltering, and they could take decades to accomplish.

But the plan's authors say some of the smaller goals are more affordable, other improvements could be made as current infrastructure wears out, and public opinion could influence Congress.

"There are some . . . big ideas in the plan," said Elizabeth Miller, the planning commission's project manager. "What we've got to realize is it's going to happen over time."

The plan can be viewed at Public comments can be sent to until Oct. 10. The plan will be the topic of a public meeting at 5 p.m. July 22 at planning commission headquarters, 401 Ninth St. NW.

"We've seen over the last few years the city is on the brink of a major transformation," said Marcel Acosta, the commission's executive director. "If many of the things are done in this plan, it's going to lead to a major change in how people view this portion of our nation's capital."

It is unclear how much support the plan will have, but the early reaction has been positive.

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