$600 million in projects outlined in Mall plan

By Michael E. Ruane
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, November 9, 2010; 8:00 PM

The tattered Sylvan Theater south of the Washington Monument would be torn down and replaced with a multi-purpose facility that would include performance, retail and food service space.

The magnificent sculpture of the Grant Memorial just west of the U.S. Capitol would be refurbished, and the adjacent, often-filthy, Reflecting Pool would be changed into a pleasant water feature as part of a spacious "civic square."

The entire seawall around the Tidal Basin - parts of which are now under water at high tide - would be rebuilt and its walkway widened.

These and other transformations on the Mall are envisioned in the long-range plan for conservation and improvement that was signed Tuesday by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis.

Years in the making, the plan to better the nation's beleaguered "front yard" was inked during an outdoor ceremony on a sunny, blustery afternoon at the Jefferson Memorial.

The plan is a general blueprint for improving some of the most tattered areas of the grand park that stretches from the U.S. Capitol to the Lincoln Memorial.

It is projected to cost more than $600 million. Estimates are that the Mall currently has some $400 million just in deferred maintenance.

No money exists for any of these projects, officials said, but the plan clears the way for fundraising and detailed designing.

"We have been prevented from raising money for projects on the Mall until there's a Mall plan," said John E. "Chip" Akridge, chairman and founder of the Trust for the National Mall, a private, non-profit fundraising partner. "We can now begin raising money. . . . We now can begin designing projects."

Among other things, the plan envisions transformations of such places as Union Square, which includes the Grant Memorial and the Reflecting Pool at the foot of the west front of the Capitol.

Elsewhere, the battered grass would be restored. A welcome plaza near the Smithsonian Metro station would be created.

The Constitution Gardens lake, northwest of the World War II Memorial, would be reconstructed, and another multi-purpose visitor center with restrooms and food service would be built there.

Salazar said some improvements on the Mall already are happening and have lifted its grade from poor to a C. "We have to aim to give it an A grade," he said.

Several Mall projects have been funded by federal economic recovery money. They include a $12 million rehabilitation of the Tidal Basin seawall at the Jefferson Memorial, the $30 million reconstruction of the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool, and the $7 million restoration of the D.C. War Memorial, honoring District residents who served in World War I.

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