The $46-million, 1,000-foot garden wall memorial to Franklin Delano Roosevelt, proposed to be built here along the western edge of the Tidal Basin, will have its only public hearing Nov. 1.
The meandering, 14-foot-high wall, with waterfalls, pools and fountains along much of its length, is the third proposal for a major monument to FDR in Washington since Congress established a memorial commission in 1955. The plan, which includes a theater, interpretive center and cafe to be built beside the wall is the first to be near approval and the first to have a public hearing.
The two previous proposals, one dubbed "instant Stonehenge" and the other "stone darts," were rejected by federal planning agencies because they were thought to detract from the nearby memorials to Washington, Jefferson and Lincoln. A rose garden in honor of Roosevelt also was proposed, but like the small, $15,000 FDR memorial on Pennsylvania Avenue - a desk-size block of marble - it was decided that a rose garden was not substantial enough to memorialize the 32nd President.
The garden wall already has received the blessing, if not final approval, of all federal planning agencies here. And so far it has been well received, but not yet funded by Congress.
"In fact, I don't know of a single voice that has been raised against it," the commission chairman, former Rep. Eugene J. Keogh of New York, recently told a House monuments subcommittee.
However, several newspapers and architectural critics have opposed the plan, as has Sen. Claiborne Pell (D-R.I.), who has questioned both the cost and size.
When first proposed, the garden wall was to have been 1,400 feet long and cost an estimated $20 million. Present plans call for a walled area 1,000 feet long, although there would be about 2,500 feet of winding walls within the memorial, according to the draft of the environmental impact statement (EIS) just released by the National Park Service.
The final EIS will be prepared after the Park Service hears from the public and the dozens of organizations now being asked to comment on the proposal. The Nov. 1 public hearing will be at 7p.m. in the Department of Interior auditorium, 18th and C streets NW; written comments will be accepted until Nov. 8.
In addition to congressional funding, the plan still must be formally approved by the National Capital Planning Commission, the federal planning agency for the Washington area. The NCPC must consider the final EIS and public comments before making a decision. However, commission Chairman David Childs told a Senate Committee this summer the commission has "reacted very favorably" to the proposed memorial and the commission considers it is an "appropriate design."
The Park Service has concluded so far that the memorial would have little impact on the Tidal Basin and surrounding parkland because, unlike the previous proposals it would take relatively little parkland - about 12 acres - and would not be very visible from a distance.
According to the environmental impact statement, the impact would be relatively minor, affecting mainly parking, traffic and the 400 teams that use ball fields in West Potomac Park.
The EIS doesn't deal with the $46-million cost of the proposed memorial, the costs of operating it or the number of Park Police and Park Service employes needed to operate it. However, those costs would be significantly greater than expenses for any existing memorials here.
For example, the electric bill for the numerous water pumps, lights and visitors facilities would range from $275,000 to more than $400,000 a year, at current rates, or more than five to eight times the cost of lighting and operating any other memorial. The lower electric bill estimate is based on a plan to slow water pumps to one-third speed at night and to turn off three-fourths of the lights.
The memorial would need a full-time staff of 44, including nine Park Police officers for 24-hour security, the Park Service estimates. The Lincoln Memorial has a full-time Park Service staff of 25, the Jefferson Memorial, 22, and the Washington Monument, 31, including five Park Police officers assigned to each memorial.
The staffing plan would provide for two officers at the FDR memorial and one at each of the other memorials on a round-the-clock basis. The large Park Service staff at the FDR memorial would be needed to operate and maintain the theater, interpretive center, library and a cafe, as well as the waterfalls and gardens. The FDR memorial would need an additional 19 seasonal (part-time) employes. The existing memorials use 17 to 30 seasonal employes. All the national monuments here are open 16 hours a day, from 8 a.m. to midnight.
The $46-million cost estimate includes $10 million for the walls and underground pilings, $7.3 million for roads and parking, $6 million for sculptures, $6 million for an interpretive center (including a 200-seat theater), $1.6 million for utilities, $1 million for landscaping and $1 million for plumbing (fountains and hardware). The estimate also includes an inflation factor and assumes the memorial will be completed by 1982, the 100th anniversary of Roosevelt's birth.
The major impact on West Potomac Park, the Park Service EIS predicts, would be to existing traffic and parking patterns. West Basin Drive, beside the cherry trees west of the Tidal Basin, would be eliminated. Ohio Drive would be redesigned for two-way traffic along the river's edge between the Tidal Basin and Lincoln Memorial.
To relieve traffic congestion, a separate half-mile-long road paralleling Ohio Drive would be built for Tourmobiles, similar to the Tourmobile road in Constitution Gardens.
Because about 261 parking spaces now on West Basin and Ohio drives would be eliminated, the Park Service proposes building new parking areas between the 14th Street bridges, which would accommodate 200 cars and 20 buses. While not many public parking spaces would be lost - 61 out of more than 500 now available in West Potomac Park - walking distances for those who park by the 14th Street bridges would be increased by about half a mile, or at least 10 minutes.
The FDR memorial is not expected to attract any additional visitors to Washington and West Potomac Park, but traffic congestion probably would increase about 40 percent on Ohio Drive, if West Basin Drive is eliminated, the Park Service estimates.
Both tourists and members of the 400 ball teams that use the park in the late afternoon and on weekends would have slightly more difficulty in parking and walking in the area. Although several ball fields near the proposed FDR memorial would be eliminated, at least the same number of new ball fields would be created across Indpendence Avenue in the open space south of the Reflecting Pool - where previous Folk Life Festivals were held.
Those wishing to speak at the Nov. 1 public hearing are requested, but not required, to register in advance with the Park Service by calling 426-7750. Written comments should be submitted before Nov. 8 and mailed to the National Capital Region, National Park Service, 1100 Ohio Dr. SW 20242.
Copies of the EIS are available at that address or may be seen at Martin Luther King Jr. Library, 9th and G streets NW, or the D.C. Recreation Department at 3149 16th St. NW.