Washington, D.C.’s heritage to get a new look

Revelers to this year’s Fourth of July celebration in Washington, D.C., better take in the Jersey barriers while they can.

Work will begin later this year to regrade the grounds around the Washington Monument for interconnecting rings that pedestrians will be able to sit on.

Also due to go are the concrete barriers near the White House to be replaced by specially designed metal bollards.

These retractable metal barriers will allow vehicles with security clearance at entrance points on 15th and 17th Streets on Pennsylvania Avenue.

What’s more, paving similar to what is used around Buckingham Palace in London will be laid on Pennsylvania Avenue — a stabilized granular stone with the durability of asphalt but a character that is more pedestrian friendly, according to the National Capital Planning Commission, which approved the changes in March and June.

Concerns about terrorists with explosive-laden vehicles prompted the temporary barriers in the District.

Around the Washington Monument, 800 trees will be planted and a ring of walls built into the ground with an earthy color of granite to fit into the landscape, said Stephen Lorenzetti, chief of division of resource management for the Park Service’s National Capital Park Central.

“This is a seating wall, which means that the hill comes down and feathers in to the top of the wall, and then it’s a 30-inch wall into a sidewalk,” Lorenzetti said. “So from the street you’re going to see the hill going up, a wall, and then the hill continuing to go up.”

A sidewalk with a curb pulled out of the wall will make it so that for a person sitting on it, the wall is 24 inches high, he said.

The existing plaza and flagpoles at the base of the Monument will be replaced and the 16th Street oval parking lot will be removed to complete the German-American Friendship Garden.

Separate from landscaping changes, an underground security screening entrance is proposed for visitors to enter the Monument instead of at the base. The National Park Service still has to submit preliminary plans for this $40 million change.

For the fireworks this year, the Washington Monument grounds are still open to the public, but the area around the old Rainbow Pool between the Monument and the Reflecting Pool is walled off for construction of the $67.5 million World War II Memorial scheduled to be completed in spring 2004.

The scope of the WWII Memorial is no longer confined to drawings, because its 56 granite columns, each 43 feet high, are installed.

Criticism peaked in the late 1990s that the memorial would destroy the open vista of the Mall. The memorial had the support of Congress, veterans groups and major companies. In 1999, actor Tom Hanks appeared in ads that helped quiet the opposition and raised some of $190 million to build and maintain the memorial.

“We’ve always maintained the architect did a masterful job of nestling the architecture into the landscape,” said WWII Memorial spokesman Mike Conley. “The two arches are literally tucked within the existing bend of elm trees, so they are absolutely out of that whole central vista area. In fact, if you’re standing at the Lincoln Memorial, you’ll probably have a hard time in spring and summer knowing those arches are even there.”

A large crane now on the site will be taken down this weekend in time for the fireworks so the line of sight from the Lincoln Memorial to the Capital is preserved, Conley said.