City to change Mall area

Proposed plans for Northwest D.C.

Connect the Kennedy center to the White House with parks down E Street

Decking over the Potomac Freeway creating new riverfront space

Link the Kennedy Center to the Lincoln Memorial

Opening new areas for parks, offices, shops and residential use

An expansive and ambitious new city plan could lead to drastic changes in the areas surrounding GW, including increased green space and many more pedestrian walkways.

The National Framework Plan, released this July by the National Capital Planning Commission, focuses on improvements to areas on and around the National Mall in order to increase pedestrian access to cultural attractions and minimize congestion in overused areas.

Elizabeth Miller, project manager for the plan, said their key goal is to change the perception of the National Mall from the “edge of the city” to the “heart of the city.”

“(Since its founding) Washington has faced the challenge of balancing its roles as a showcase for the nation and an appealing home for its residents,” the NCPC Web site said. “Today, federal planners are working harder than ever to ensure that improvements to the capital’s monuments and public spaces benefit residents and visitors alike.”

The Kennedy Center is set to be the cornerstone of improvements, which planners intend to connect with other national monuments. Plans include linking it to the Lincoln Memorial and the White House through a series of pedestrian walkways and through a string of parks down the E Street and the waterfront areas.

The plan notes that the area around Foggy Bottom has a lot of open space but suffers from “the intrusion of disruptive highways, the absence of street life and the lack of a clear unifying vision to knit the fragmented parcels together into a coherent ensemble.”

Miller said improvements to parks along E Street would create an attractive space for studying and recreation along the edge of campus. She added that pedestrian-friendly parks connecting the E Street corridor to the Kennedy Center, Georgetown and the Lincoln Memorial would also be a bonus for students living in Foggy Bottom.

Implementation of the plan will depend on interest and will require a long process involving both the city and federal governments. It is currently in a public review period, and the city is accepting feedback until October.

Some aspects of the plan, like improving parks along E Street, could be just a few years away. But Miller said some of the most dramatic proposals, like the pedestrian walkways and decks over the Potomac Freeway, could be 20 years or more in the making.

“It will happen over time and as opportunities arise,” Miller said. The plan is intended to jump-start the development process by attracting museums and other cultural sponsors to build on sites, turning the plan into reality, while maintaining a cohesive vision for the future of the city.

Plans to build parks on top of the Potomac Freeway in front of the Kennedy Center have been discussed in the past but ultimately failed to get the necessary federal funding, said John Dow, a spokesman for the Kennedy Center. In 2002, a bill went before Congress allocating $400 million for the development.

“It would have created a verdant plaza over the Potomac Freeway,” Dow said. The funding was subsequently denied, leaving the Kennedy Center without any plans for large-scale construction projects, Dow said.

The plan will evolve based on suggestions from individuals and organizations until the public comment period ends in October, Miller said. The National Capital Planning Commission will host a public comment meeting on Sept. 25.

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