There will be no multimedia slide show this time and certainly no fanfare when its doors open, but Washington will soon have another visitors center, a low-key operation in Commerce Department's Great Hall.
This latest attempt at dispensing information and advice to some of the 15 million people who visit Washington each year will open March 14 at 1400 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, just across the street from Pershing Square.
The Washington Visitor Information Center is the brainchild of the Washington Covention and Visitors Association, which started searching for a way to open such a place almost as soon as the ill-fated National Visitor Center was closed at the crumbling, leaking Union Station two years ago.
In one of its larger fiscal follies, the federal government spent or committed more than $138 million on the National Visitor Center project, including the widely criticized slide show in a carved-out pit. Federal involvement in the new center, which is being financed by the visitors association and local businesses, has been decidedly more limited.
Among other things, the government donated the space in the Commerce Department's vaulted-ceiling Great Hall, the same spot that was used for a Bicentiennial information center. Those with a good memory of the erstwhile Visitor Center might recognize the furnishings in the new one--highly lacquered oak information booths, seals of various institutions and flags of the 50 states. That's because the furnishings came from the old Visitor Center.
"Everything is hand-me-downs," said center manager Jerry Wells, a retired U.S. Park Police chief. "We don't look a gift horse in the mouth."
Official White House photographers contributed a large collection of candid color photos of President Reagan and other officials. Nearby is a wall display of Washington-from-the-sky photographs taken by Robert Cameron.
Wells said volunteers from Travelers Aid and the International Visitor Information Service will staff the main information booth, while the National Park Service will hand out brochures on its facilities in the area and the White House Historical Association will sell its publications.