Capital Buzz: Madame Tussauds expanding U.S. Presidents Gallery

By Capital Business staff reports
Monday, August 23, 2010

Madame Tussauds D.C. has hired Bethesda-based GTM Architects for a $2 million expansion of its U.S. Presidents Gallery. The project will add 1,500 square feet of space to the existing 15,000-square-foot gallery.

The wax museum's general manager, Dan Rogoski, said each of the 44 presidents will be featured within a scene that depicts their lives: Abraham Lincoln at Ford's Theater, Richard Nixon during his farewell speech. At the end of the historical journey, visitors will wind up in the oval office to hobnob with President Obama.

The museum opened with 15 presidential figures three years ago, and it added nine more in February. Visitors, Rogoski said, questioned why all the former commanders in chief were not represented, leading the company to forge ahead with expansion plans.

Business has been on the mend, with ticket sales up roughly 10 percent from last year, he explained.

"We're a pay-for attraction in a free market," which doesn't make it easy, Rogoski said. "Our hope is that by including all 44 presidents and becoming the only place in the world with this educational experience, we'll only help to increase our visitors."

-- Danielle Douglas

JEMAL FOR ... ?

Tab through D.C. Mayor Adrian M. Fenty's campaign finance reports, and you will find the names of just about every real estate developer in town. And sometimes the names of their loved ones and each of the companies they control, all popping contributions to the mayor's reelection campaign against fellow Democrat D.C. Council Chairman Vincent C. Gray.

Thus, it should come as no surprise that Douglas Jemal would have a shimmering green Fenty campaign banner hanging from one of his properties near Howard University, or that Jemal would host a couple of events for Fenty at the new Carmine's restaurant in Penn Quarter. Carmine's (a Douglas Development tenant) hosted the mayor Aug. 5 for a "pasta cutting" to christen the new restaurant and again last week so New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg could endorse Fenty.

But another Jemal tenant is none other than the Gray campaign headquarters, on 6th Street in Northwest, in Mount Vernon Square. So we have to ask, Mr. Jemal, are you supporting Gray? "I'm supporting him and I'm supporting Adrian as well," the magnate said.

Jemal has developed properties under ever mayor since he purchased his first real estate here in 1981, during Marion Barry's first term, so perhaps he has learned that a hedged bet is a good one.


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