Government groups disagree about putting new Desert Storm memorial on National Mall
By NIKKI WENTLING | STARS AND STRIPES Published: April 6, 2018
WASHINGTON — The National Capital Planning Commission unanimously chose a location on the National Mall for the new National Desert Storm and Desert Shield War Memorial, putting the group at odds with another commission that also has a say in the selection process.
The planning commission decided on the mall site Thursday — a vote celebrated by the group of veterans responsible for designing and funding the memorial. But it’s uncertain whether that will be the final location, and the monthslong process to choose a location is slated to get longer.
Last month, the U.S. Commission on Fine Arts voted to put the memorial on a small waterfront site west of the mall. Now, the two groups must come together to make a final determination.
“We do not officially have the site that we want. It is a process, and today was a very, very good day in the process,” the National Desert Storm War Memorial Association posted Thursday to veterans following the memorial’s progress on Facebook.
President Donald Trump signed a resolution last March approving a Desert Storm and Desert Shield memorial on federal land in Washington. It’s estimated to cost $25 million and be completed by 2021.
During the past year, Scott Stump, president of the association, and other veterans have gone before the planning and fine arts commissions multiple times to fight for a location on the mall, near 23rd Street and Constitution Avenue. The location is in close proximity to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.
“Our team was seeking a site that’s easy for pedestrians to access and visit, as well as a place of relative quiet for reflection and contemplation,” Stump said Thursday. “We feel strongly this site at 23rd and Constitution allows for that.”
James Baker, former White House chief of staff, secretary of treasury and secretary of state, sent a video message to commissioners Thursday.
“I hope the commission will vote today to allow this memorial to be located at 23rd and Constitution – the most fitting place of honor, prominence and prestige that it so rightly deserves,” Baker said. “This was much more than just the ‘100 Hour War.’ The world should not forget what we accomplished in 1991.”
In March, the Commission on Fine Arts argued against the mall site, stating it wanted the area around the Lincoln Memorial to remain free from development. Any memorial there would need to be subtle, placed on low ground and hidden among trees, the commission concluded.
The waterfront site that the commission eventually chose is the historic Belvedere – a portion of land at the western end of Constitution Avenue. Commissioners liked the spot, they said, because it would allow for a grander design and is highly visible from the mall, Potomac River and the bridge that links Washington and northern Virginia.
It’s uncertain when the two commissions will come together to decide between the locations.
Meanwhile, the association is moving forward with work on the memorial design. The National Park Service is asking for public input on what the memorial should look like. Through April 13, anyone can offer their opinions on the design by going to parkplanning.nps.gov.