It’s beginning to feel reasonable to wonder whether the Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial will ever get built on the planned plot of land in Southwest DC near the Mall. Of course, it will eventually get built—probably—and maybe in most of our lifetimes, but the stories most often written about the project relate to controversies and actions that have brought the process almost to a standstill. The latest arrived this week, with an announcement that the Eisenhower Memorial Commission canceled a scheduled Thursday appearance before the National Capital Planning Commission. It is a third effort by the commission to get approval from the NCPC.
Not long after architect Frank Gehry submitted the first design plan, the Eisenhower family balked and got congressional and other support for their contention that the Gehry design was too grand and too edgy, that it did not represent the late president’s core values or his life. They also objected to environmental aspects of the design. That caused delays. Utah Congressman Rob Bishop, chairman of the public lands and environmental regulations subcommittee, opposes the Gehry design and held hearings to suggest the whole plan be scrapped and replaced by a new design. That caused more delays. Gehry made adjustments that received appropriate approvals this summer, including from the Eisenhower Commission. The Thursday meeting was to review site and building plans, but the commission said it needed more time.
The authorization for the Eisenhower Memorial Commission lapses at the end of September, and if that happens the current fiscal budget of $51 million could be stopped. While in the arcane processes of the legislative system it’s possible work could continue regardless, the commission should seek reauthorization for that money to go forward. Bishop’s subcommittee oversees the reauthorization, and he is seeking a full accounting of the money spent so far.
Right by Ike: Project for a New Eisenhower Memorial, an organization that opposes the Gehry design, issued a statement when the delay was announced. “The design already faces uncertain funding in Congress, and the authorization for its sponsoring commission set to expire at the end of this month,” the statement said. “We should redesign the Eisenhower Memorial through the kind of open public process its commission should have started with.”
We asked for comment from the Eisenhower family and will update when we receive a reply.