Entries in Renovation (3)


National Mall to Get $700 Million Makeover with Help of Laura Bush

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The expansive, green backbone of America’s capital city is about to get a major facelift.

Stretching from the U.S. Capitol building to the Lincoln Memorial, the National Mall is currently a giant swath of grass with limited event space, no restaurants, few restrooms and minimal seating space.

But after decades of neglect, the Trust for the National Mall announced Thursday the three design contest winners tasked with turning “America’s backyard” into, as former first lady Laura Bush said, a “beautiful gathering place” and “vibrant legacy for our grandchildren and our great-grandchildren.”

“After so many decades, we need to do more than sprinkle some seed or put down some new sod,” Bush said Thursday at the National Mall Benefit Luncheon. “Our capital and our country are worth us maintaining this beautiful gathering place and making it a place that will educate and unite Americans through the 21st century and beyond.”

The multi-million-dollar makeover is broken up into three areas: Union Square, which includes the reflecting pool immediately in front of the Capitol building; Constitution Gardens, the little-visited park space and pond just north of the Lincoln Memorial reflecting pool; and Sylvan Theater, the grassy knoll surrounding the Washington Monument.

What is now just grass, trees and lampposts nestled around America’s most iconic monuments is slated to soon include an amphitheater, terraced seating areas, gardens, restaurants, an ice skating rink and some serious lighting upgrades. In some areas, the entire topography of the landscape will be re-engineered to decrease traffic noise and increase sustainability and efficiency.

But don’t postpone your Washington vacation just yet to see these improvements in action. The first groundbreaking is not set to begin until 2014 and the earliest ribbon-cutting ceremony is still four years away.

While the Trust for the National Mall’s luncheons have raised about $7 million over the past five years, the group is still hundreds of millions of dollars away from raising the amount necessary for the planned projects.

Half of the $700 million project, which includes renovations to nearly every part of the 700-acre mall, will be funded by taxpayers while the remaining $350 million will come from private donations.

That’s where the former first lady comes in. As the honorary chairwoman of the Trust for the National Mall, Bush is tasked with overseeing private-sector fundraising for the renovations, which she dubbed “thoughtful” and “innovative.”

At Thursday’s benefit luncheon, where 1,200 donors spent $500 per plate to support the project and hear the first lady’s speech, Bush said some of her “fondest memories” of living in Washington, D.C., involved the “grand avenue” of the National Mall.

“One of our favorite things to do when we had friends from Texas visit was to take a picnic out on the lawn,” Bush said from beneath a royal-wedding-style silver hat inside a lavishly decorated tent temporarily constructed near the Washington Monument for the garden-party-style event.

Bush said as first lady she would sometimes sneak out of the White House in a baseball cap and sunglasses to walk along the mall’s gravel paths and try to blend in with the tourists and joggers.

“In over 200 years, the National Mall has become a unique national treasure...where history is remembered and where history is made,” Bush said, “and over the last few decades, it has become a place where history is preserved.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Statue of Liberty to Close for Yearlong Renovation Project

Medioimages/Photodisc(NEW YORK) -- Those planning to visit the Statue of Liberty should do so before the end of October.  The National Park Service is closing the popular New York tourist attraction for a year-long renovation project that will cost $27.25 million.

The statue was last closed following the Sept. 11 attacks for safety reasons, but the National Park Service re-opened the monument, with the exception of the crown, three years later.  In 2009, the crown was re-opened to tourists in limited numbers.  At its re-opening, Secretary of the Interior, Ken Salazar promised upgrades would be made to the monument to make it more safe and accessible.

On Wednesday, Secretary Salazar announced plans to make good on his promise for Lady Liberty's makeover project.

"With today's announcement, we are taking a major step in bringing a 19th-century icon into the 21st-century," Salazar said Wednesday.

The renovations, to be completed by the Joseph A. Natoli Construction Corporation of Pine Brook, N.J., will include new stairways within the monument, updates to mechanical and electrical systems, new elevators and bathrooms and increased access for visitors.

The Statue of Liberty will remain open to the public through Oct. 28, the 125th anniversary of the monument's dedication.  Work on the statue will begin Oct. 29.  The National Park Service says Liberty Island will remain open to visitors for the duration of the renovation.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


San Quentin: Cash-Strapped California to Spend $356M to Upgrade Death Row

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(SAN QUENTIN, Calif.) -- San Quentin State Prison's death row will soon be getting a controversial upgrade.

California State officials justified the $356 million project to renovate the state's notorious death row by pointing out the security and safety flaws on three housing blocks constructed in the 1920s, 1930s and 1960s, which house such high-profile murderers as Drew Peterson, Richard Ramirez and Cary Stayner.

However, local and state officials questioned Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's commitment to pay a $64.7 million down payment out of the cash-strapped state's general fund, at a time when funding is being reduced or withheld from schools and state workers have been forced through a summer of furlough days.

"It is the poster child for this administration's failure to prioritize in tough times," state Assemblyman Jared Huffman, R-San Rafael, said. He added "It's the most expensive prison cell space on the planet."

Huffman is one of two state legislators to file a legal challenge to Schwarzenegger's use of veto power to excise from the budget language that would have called for studies and resolutions of the state's well-known prison overcrowding problem.

A decision is expected in November, but bids are scheduled to be opened on the project on Tuesday.

H.D. Palmer, the state's deputy finance director, said that the death row is in dire need of immediate attention and that because the state's penal code dictates executions be done at San Quentin, they cannot even consider moving death row elsewhere.

"Given the safety issues and the structural issues that are involved here, and given the fact that capital punishment is still the law of the land here … this facility needs to go forward," Palmer said.
On the East Block, there is only one line of perimeter security between the cells and the San Francisco Bay. It is a 12-foot masonry wall topped with razor wire. The state, which has questioned the current structure's ability to contain prisoners during an earthquake, plans to construct a double wall with an electrified fence in between. 

However many in the area aren't buying this project as a state necessity. The Larkspur City Council, whose town sits adjacent to San Quentin, voted -- at Huffman's request -- to send a letter to Schwarzenegger opposing the expansion.

The project is to be completed in two phases and is scheduled for completion in 2013.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

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