News & Politics

Washingtonian of the Year 2015: John E. Akridge III

Photograph by Jeff Elkins

America’s front yard is getting a facelift thanks to Chip Akridge, founder of the Trust for the National Mall. The head of the Akridge real-estate firm has long enjoyed jogging on the Mall. Amid the memorials, he noticed stagnant water in the Reflecting Pool, patchy grass, crumbling stones at the base of monuments. The “over-loved” Mall was a disgrace, and the National Park Service was shackled with a $9-billion backlog to maintain all US parkland. Determined to restore the Mall, Akridge met with the Central Park Conservancy, a model for green-space renewal. “I’m going to copy everything you did,” he told the New Yorkers. In 2007, the Trust became the largest public/private partnership in Park Service history. A first step was restoring the Reflecting Pool, which leaked 500,000 gallons a week. New turf for the Mall is on the roster, as is rehabbing Constitution Gardens and the Sylvan Theater. Says Akridge: “The Mall is the home of our history, our heroes, and our hope.”

This article appears in our January 2016 issue of Washingtonian.