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Eisenhower Memorial given the final go-ahead to begin construction

Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower meets with U.S. Army paratroopers from the 101st Division in England, prior to the Normandy Invasion, June 5, 1944.

DEPARTMENT OF THE ARMY/NATIONAL ACHIVES/TNS

By GRIFFIN CONNOLLY | CQ-Roll Call | Published: October 7, 2017

WASHINGTON (Tribune News Service) — That wasn't so hard now, was it?

After 17 years of bickering among lawmakers, U.S. Fine Arts commissioners, National Capital Commission planners, and a family with the last name Eisenhower, the Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial Commission finally has the go-ahead to break ground on an ambitious park to enshrine the supreme allied commander in World War II and 34th United States president.

The National Capital Planning Commission granted its unanimous approval of the memorial's design Thursday afternoon, the final hurdle to an autumn groundbreaking.

Commissioners are planning to host an official groundbreaking ceremony Nov. 2, a source familiar with the project's operations said Friday.

"Dwight Eisenhower played a pivotal role in our country's history, both as president and as a military leader," Minnesota Rep. Betty McCollum, the ranking member of the House Interior-Environment Appropriations subcommittee, said in a statement. "It is fitting that he be honored with a memorial in the heart of our nation's capital."

The monument will nestle between the Education Department building to its south and the National Air and Space Museum to its north. It will present visitors with a tree-lined viewing lane of the Capitol running parallel to Maryland Avenue.

The park's centerpiece will be a roughly 25,000-square-foot transparent tapestry of steel cables woven along a metal framework depicting the Pointe du Hoc cliffs at Utah Beach in Normandy, the ground zero site for American seaborne invaders on D-Day in 1944. The tapestry includes 600 3-by-15-foot panels and will span nearly the entire width of the Education Department building's north facade _ or roughly five basketball courts stacked baseline to baseline.

The park will also be home to three 9-foot-tall bronze statues of Eisenhower _ as a young boy growing up in the Abilene, Kan.; as the supreme commander of the Allied Forces in World War II; and as the United States' 34th president _ accompanied by stone blocks etched with Eisenhower quotes from each of the three periods.

The project will wind up costing close to $150 million, mostly funded by taxpayer dollars. The memorial commission plans to raise $25 million from private donations. It has already reached roughly half that target, a spokesperson for the commission said. The country of Taiwan and corporations such as FedEx and Pfizer have contributed seven-figure donations, according to the memorial commission's website.

In May, the president inked an omnibus budget bill that shoveled $45 million to the memorial commission to move forward with construction.

The law requires federally commissioned projects to have all their funding in place before breaking ground, but the Eisenhower Memorial commission has received a special waiver from Congress to begin construction now, a member of Rep. Ken Calvert's staff said in March. (Calvert, a California Republican, is the chairman of the House Interior-Environment Appropriations subcommittee.)

In August, the General Services Administration awarded a building contract valued at $75 million to Bethesda, Md.-based Clark Construction, the same company that erected the new National Museum of African American History and Culture.

The commission asked Congress for $40 million for construction purposes in the fiscal 2018 bill and $1.6 million for operational costs.

The House fiscal 2018 bill has the project earmarked for only $15 million for construction and $1.6 million for operations.

But there is no indication from lawmakers they will stall funding for the project now that it has the necessary permits to begin construction.

"There is broad bicameral, bipartisan support for the Eisenhower Memorial," McCollum said. "Alongside the Eisenhower Commission's private fundraising efforts, I am confident that the project will have the federal funding it needs to be completed."

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