CFA 20/APR/23-4


National Mall and West Potomac Park, from 3rd to 23rd Streets, NW/SW
Washington, DC
United States

National Capital Planning Commission
Monumental Core Streetscape Project
Monumental Core Streetscape Design Guidelines -- Small-Scale Elements
Review Type
Information presentation


Dear Mr. Acosta:

In its public meeting of 20 April conducted by videoconference, the Commission of Fine Arts was pleased to hear an information presentation by the National Capital Planning Commission staff on the Monumental Core Streetscape Design Guidelines, part of the update to the Streetscape Manual for the National Mall, which included a briefing on the Small- Scale Elements as well as a response to the Commission’s comments from February 2022 on the Vertical and Surface Elements. The Commission expressed appreciation for the effort to coordinate projects within the Mall and its vicinity, and provided the following comments for the development of this and forthcoming planning documents.

Recognizing the number and variety of small-scale elements addressed by the guidelines, the Commission members recommended the development of a more cohesive design character for these elements to strengthen the spatial continuity of the Monumental Core—emphasizing that the small-scale elements should be considered as a collection of street furniture within the larger historic context, not simply as separate components. In order to avoid a cluttered appearance, they suggested reducing and consolidating the number of smaller streetscape elements in public space, establishing a more coordinated design approach rather than offering an open-ended range of options, and giving further consideration to the design of newer elements, such as electric vehicle charging stations and small-cell communications infrastructure and co-locating these wherever possible. They also recommended coordination among all entities with responsibility for technology, maintenance, regulation, and enforcement within the Mall area—either as part of the Interagency Working Group or through direct consultation—to ensure that expertise is available for developing workable guidelines and integrating these newer technologies. In order to achieve successful implementation of the guidelines, they recommended clarifying the process for executing projects, whether by public- or private-sector entities, which they observed will be critical to the usefulness and longevity of the guidelines.

Regarding specific small-scale elements, the Commission members commented that the guidelines for the spacing and design of benches may be inadequate for the large concentration of visitors on the National Mall, and they recommended more careful consideration of the needs of visitors, particularly families. For trash receptacles, they recommended more careful consideration of current best practices, such as coverings to keep out pests and rainwater. They also suggested establishing policies to address the interaction among the guidelines and articulate a hierarchy among the elements, such as emphasizing the importance of street trees by directing that small-scale elements should not displace them.

In their support for the revisions to the Vertical and Surface Elements, the Commission members urged reconsidering the enforcement-oriented strategy to address issues such as controlling the presence of vending trucks and tour buses on the Mall; they encouraged NCPC to resolve these challenges through design, working with the vendors and operators to support visitor needs while protecting the spatial symbolism and view corridors of the National Mall.

The Commission looks forward to the continued review of updates to the Streetscape Manual in order to guide stewardship of this nationally significant urban landscape. For the development of the future components, please consult with the Commission staff which, as always, is available to assist you.


/s/Thomas E. Luebke, FAIA

Marcel Acosta, Executive Director
National Capital Planning Commission
401 9th Street, NW, Suite 500-N
Washington, DC 20004

cc: Laurin Lineman, Federal Highway Administration
Everett Lott, D.C. Department of Transportation
Peter May, National Park Service