The National Capital Planning Commission yesterday killed a proposal to build an 11-story, $4 million memorial arch in honor of the U.S. Navy at Pennsylvania Avenue and 8th Street NW.
The commission suggested the massive arch, planned in the style of the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, be located somewhere else or that a less grandiose and more "appropriate" Navy memorial be designed for the Market Square site opposite the National Archives.
The federal planning agency waived its regulations and voted on the project two weeks early, after it had become clear there was almost unanimous opposition to the project--which had been dubbed the "musical arch" by many of its detractors.
The 112-foot arch, which would have been the largest classical arch in this country, was to be converted into a bandshell for daily military band concerts by lowering large acoustical panels. It also would have contained a small Navy Museum, along with office and storage space for the U.S. Navy Band. Fountains and an underground theater also were proposed.
The arch was opposed by the commission as a huge and inappropriate "elevator building" that was out of place on Pennsylvania Avenue and was designed to fill two incompatible functions, "a Roman arch and a bandshell."
Among NCPC's many objections were that the arch would overwhelm Market Square, detract from the National Archives and Pennsylvania Avenue and block the vista up 8th Street to the historic National Portrait Gallery.
In a gesture of support to the sponsors of the Navy arch--the Pennsylvania Avenue Development Corporation (PADC) and the private U.S. Navy Memorial Foundation--the planning commission directed its staff to help them develop an "acceptable" memorial concept for Market Square or help them find an acceptable alternate site for the 112-foot arch.
"Well, it's back to the drawing boards," said Rear Adm. William Thompson (Ret.), president of the Navy foundation, which would have paid for construction and maintenance of the arch. "There's still going to be a Navy memorial. And we hope to have it at Market Square, although there are other sites that have popped up."
Thompson added, "I didn't like this thing at first, myself." He said, though, that he had come to consider it "a good dramatic statement."
The planning commission was to have considered the arch at its April meeting, but PADC temporarily withdrew the proposal at the last minute, anticipating opposition. The plan was then resubmitted, leading to yesterday's action.