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Posted at 6:51 PM ET, 02/24/2010

How to fix the National Mall

By washingtonpost.com editors

By Matt Engel
Silver Spring

Michael Ruane’s Feb. 19 article, “Fine-arts panel enthusiastic about plan to overhaul Mall” speaks to a refurbishment that clearly needs to happen on the Mall. Unfortunately, it appears that the plan being considered is short on vision and lacks long-term benefit for District residents.

As anyone who has visited the Mall can tell you, the problem is not the gravel pathways, the lack of shine on the statues or the size of the reflecting pool. The problem is that this place has no “sense of place.” The flat expanse of the Mall, combined with the omnipresent museums, makes for a beautiful but somewhat one-dimensional experience.

Here’s a suggestion that would bring life to the Mall and raise revenue for the city: Maintain the center lawn area but replace the gravel aisles on either side with cobblestone, gas-lighted pedestrian streets.

On each of the left and right aisles, build small-scale restaurants, limited retail and outdoor cafes. Make the Mall feel more like Las Ramblas in Barcelona and less like a gravel football field.

With places to eat and recreate, the Mall could become a 24-hour pedestrian mall — and not an eight-hour tourist desert. It could also benefit the District by dedicating a stream of its tax revenue to a local service, such as Metro.

By washingtonpost.com editors  | February 24, 2010; 6:51 PM ET
Categories:  D.C., HotTopic, National Mall  
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