Housing Complex

Mall Fundraising Won’t Benefit Union Square

In this week's column, I went into some depth on one unintended consequence of the Architect of the Capitol's annexation of Union Square, the easternmost chunk of the Mall that contains Grant Statue with views of legislative branch. Turns out there's another one.

As the Post originally reported, the Trust for the National Mall is hosting a design competition for three key sites on the mall, and one for Union Square—narrowed down to four teams, including some of the nation's top landscape architecture firms—will go forward as planned. Here's the problem: The Trust's agreement only covers land covered by the Park Service. So now, Union Square won't benefit from the hundreds of millions of dollars they'd been planning to raise for restorations. The Architect of the Capitol is on the design competition jury, but I highly doubt he's budgeted for what it would take to implement the winning plan; the long-delayed master plan for the Capitol Complex is still "under review."

It does make the trust's task easier, though. “From where I sit, it’s less money that I have to raise, so not a bad thing,” shrugs the non-profit's president, Caroline Cunningham.

The other silver lining: Because ownership of the eastern end of the Mall is now contiguous from Constitution to Independence Avenue, the designers will be able to take a "more comprehensive" look at the space, Cunningham says. Which might be cold comfort, if their plans never come to fruition.

I've reached out to several of the firms, and either not heard back or gotten polite refusals to comment.

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