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Designing the Future of the National Mall

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Today, the Trust for the National Mall will introduce the final design concepts for the National Mall Design Competition, which includes proposals for Constitution Gardens, the Washington Monument grounds at Sylvan Theater and Union Square. These ideas will be exhibited online, allowing for public comment, for several weeks before the winning designs are announced in May. The Trust is a non-profit organization dedicated to restoring the National Mall in partnership with the National Park Service.

Created by some of our nation's leading architects, these designs address critical restoration needs and provide a more welcoming environment for visitors. They provide a framework for a more beautiful, useful and sustainable National Mall, while honoring its historic integrity and the original visions of Pierre L'Enfant and the McMillan Commission. These designs represent an important step forward in the preservation and protection of this national treasure.

The National Mall is a public place of great historical and symbolic significance. The Mall gives all Americans -- half of whom will visit the Mall during their lifetime -- an opportunity to connect with our country's history and heroes. It is also where we come together as a nation to inaugurate our presidents, honor our war veterans, exercise our freedom of speech and celebrate the significance of our founding as a nation.

The National Mall is now in desperate need of restoration and repairs. It is visited by more than 25 million people annually -- more than Yellowstone, Yosemite and Grand Canyon National Parks combined. Yet, the National Mall has not received resources proportionate to its high volume of visitors and its use in nearly 40 years. It now requires an estimated $400 million for critical deferred maintenance, along with another $300 million for restoration and improvement projects.

The long-term inadequate maintenance and funding have taken their toll on our National Mall. Its once-glowing greensward is marred with large patches of dirt where grass has been worn away, and numerous sidewalks are cracked or inaccessible. Additionally, the Tidal Basin seawall has sunk in recent years, leaving sidewalks in front of the Jefferson, FDR and MLK Memorials flooded twice daily by the tides. The old Lockkeeper's House stands shuttered.

These problems were documented in the November 2010 National Park Service National Mall Plan, a visionary blueprint for the Mall's future. The Plan, signed by Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar and National Park Service Director Jon Jarvis, outlines the deterioration of this historic landscape and its no longer verdant vistas; the lack of basic and necessary services such as restrooms, water and food; and the need for improved access to Mall information and walking directions.

The National Mall Design Competition was created to develop imaginative, sustainable solutions that are consistent with the National Mall Plan. The winning designs will be selected by a Jury of eight renowned experts from the fields of architecture, landscape architecture, community activism, historic preservation, public branding, graphic design and sustainable land use. The Jury will judge the final design proposals on their functionality and sustainability, as well as how closely they reflect the National Mall's architectural and historic urban design legacies.

During the weeks before the winning designs are selected, the public will have the opportunity to view the design concepts and share their thoughts about the designs. Comments will be given to the Competition Jury and Steering Committee, and will provide valuable public input for the future direction of the National Mall. Visit nationalmalldesign.org to view and comment on the designs.

We hope that all Americans will involve themselves in this unparalleled opportunity to contribute to the rich design and planning legacy of the National Mall, and help us protect and preserve America's Front Yard for generations to come.