Two Plans - One Vision

A bold new vision for Washington, D.C. is taking shape with the formation of two of the most important federal plans in nearly a decade. They are the National Mall Plan, now under development by the National Park Service, and the Monumental Core Framework Plan, a joint venture of NCPC and the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts (CFA). Together, the two plans envision a livable, sustainable monumental core with America’s civic stage at its center, surrounded by popular destinations and thriving neighborhoods.

The National Mall Plan
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NPS Mall Plan The National Mall Plan ensures that visitors will continue to be inspired with vistas and memorials that are symbols of our nation. They also will have well-dispersed, comfortable, and convenient facilities for education, services, and enjoyment. In addition, park operations will be improved by incorporating best practices in sustainability. The plan reflects feedback received during nationwide public outreach; the wide range of uses that have to be accommodated; and the agency’s challenges of managing the most visited national park in the country.

“The National Mall is America’s civic stage,” explains Deputy Superintendent for the National Mall and Memorial Parks, Steve Lorenzetti. “Our primary challenge is that the historic landscape was never designed to be a civic space or to accommodate the enormous volume of visitors.” Annually, there are an estimated 25 million visits to the Mall each year.

One of the components of the National Mall Plan calls for the redesign of Union Square as a flexible civic space to help protect the historic landscape as well as provide a lively destination that better accommodates public activities. The plan also upgrades walkways, furniture, facilities, and other services such as adding more restrooms, places to eat, and navigational signs to improve the visitor experience.

The Framework Plan

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Even with the possible conversion of Union Square and other areas into improved civic gathering spaces, additional sites will still be required to accommodate new commemorative works, museums, and public events. The Monumental Core Framework Plan provides a solution to this problem by reimagining areas around the National Mall as more desirable destinations, each with its own distinct character, all enlivened with a mixture of daytime and evening activities within a pleasant public realm.

“By creating lively areas around the National Mall with amenities and nationally significant museums, memorials, and gathering spaces, we can help the Park Service preserve the Mall and improve the visitor experience”

Elizabeth Miller, Framework Plan Project Manager

Proposed 10th Street, SW
“By creating lively areas around the National Mall with amenities and nationally significant museums, memorials, and gathering spaces, we can help the Park Service preserve the Mall and improve the visitor experience,” explains NCPC’s Elizabeth Miller, project manager for the Framework Plan. “At the same time, the Park Service can help us ensure that the Mall and surrounding areas will meet the needs of those who work and live nearby.”

With the removal of highway and other infrastructure barriers, several federal precincts near the Mall present an opportunity to provide sites for new cultural facilities and public gatherings. The Framework Plan envisions a variety of ways to improve connections among new destinations and the National Mall by creating sidewalks and bike paths, removing barriers such as freeway interchanges, and making places more accessible with the addition of Metro stations and other mass transit options.

More Core, Less Monumental
With the grand scale of its landscape, dramatic views, iconic memorials and combination of formal and informal spaces, the National Mall projects an awe-inspiring monumentality, and it is precisely this characteristic that needs to be preserved. However, a monumental scale everywhere would feel dehumanizing and cold.

Both plans want welcoming, attractive public spaces. The Framework Plan takes a 21st century approach to urban commemoration, showing how to create space for new monuments without blanketing the city with more monumentality. Instead, memorials and museums can be agents of change that make the center of the city a “core” in the truest sense—the vital, pulsing heart of the nation’s capital.