National Mall Underground – “Serious, or crazy rich guy with too much money?”

by Prince Of Petworth January 22, 2014 at 4:00 pm 29 Comments


“Dear PoPville,

I fist noticed this street front gallery just north of K street on Connecticut ave. Based in its look, I figured it was an art gallery (in absurdly expensive space). On closer inspection, it’s a info center for some wealthy developer’s proposal to build a parking lot under the national mall. I googled it, and we website seems to be as much about him as it is about the project.

Serious, or crazy rich guy with too much money?”

National Mall Underground’s website says:

“The National Mall Underground project solves the needs of the public as well as federal and District of Columbia planners by consolidating in one structure several functions: car and tour bus parking, visitor services, a flood reservoir, and irrigation cisterns, while providing new turf grass as the “green roof.” During heavy storm events, buses and cars will be removed from the two lower parking levels and flood waters will be pumped here for temporary storage. The location between the Smithsonian Castle and the Museum of Natural History, and between the 9th Street and 12th Street tunnels under the Mall, is centrally located near the Metro Smithsonian stop and Capital Bikeshare locations.”


  • AG

    I’d be totally fine with bus or handicapped parking under the mall to get them off the side streets, but we DO NOT need to incentivize people to drive to the Mall.

  • Anonymous

    Hehe, this isn’t happening anytime soon.

  • Los

    I went into this place a few weeks ago. My impression was that the plan was too small and it only included parking. They should build a food court and some retail space there and in exchange the city gets free flood control.

    • Anonymous

      And bathrooms. The mall does need some permanent bathrooms, the port-a-potties coming and going for every large event are not pleasing!!

      • saf

        The mall HAS permanent bathrooms. The potapots are there because NPS wants events to have more bathrooms.

        • Anonymous

          Yes, there are a few toilets now. I’m talking about building a number of toilets equivalent to what the port-a-potties provide for the medium to big events (not for the biggest events, still will need to bring in some pots for those). Maybe they’re only open for big events and the event has to pay for them (like they now pay for the port-a-potties). I feel like I’ve never actually seen the Mall without a bank of port-a-potties, and it would be nice for the absence of them to be the default.

  • Anonymous

    Friends of the Nat’l Mall will declare jihad on this project long before it ever gets off the ground.

  • National Mall

    I am not sure why its crazy, the idea has been floated a few times over the decades by the NPS etc, the most recent of which with a 400 million dollar price tag, and this guy certainly wouldn’t build it. It would require public money as well.

    I am not so sure why it would be crazy. The Mall gets ~27 million visitors a year, and according to the NPS 1,200 tour buses a day drop/ pick up on the Mall during Spring t hrough Fall, buses that simply sit on the street and idle, or drive over to the water front to park and idle (which people who live there just “love”, or circle the nearby streets.
    The response, well…more people should metro. Ok, if Metro were a functioning system that didn’t have 25-30 minute headways non-rush hour and wasn’t single tracking every single weekend, that might be true but families who come here also aren’t going to park at Shady Grove and pay ~$7 bucks each ($28 round trip family of 4), carrying all the crap that parents with kids these days carry with them, to then have to deal with Metro’s unpredicatability. You could charge buses $15 an hour to park and cars $5 an hour and people would gladly hand it over.

    Who knows if the flood prevention part would work, but the parking is definitely a smart thing.

    • Anonymous

      And if Metro had $400M granted towards upgrades and improvements, all of those problems could be remedied and the system could be significantly expanded. Not to mention the fact that the $400M quoted price tag only includes the storm water cisterns–not the building of the parking decks. The fact is this “solution” would increase the number of visitors driving into the city, both in individual vehicles and in buses, thereby increasing overall traffic significantly since the city doesn’t have the road infrastructure to effectively support. And considering the price tag would easily cross a half-billion dollars, there’s simply a lot more that can be done through improved transit solutions that would benefit not only tourists, but also residents.

      • Anonymous

        I’m pretty sure it would take a hell of a lot more than $400 million to even make a dent in Metro’s laundry list of issues.

      • Anonymous

        Metro could not be significantly expanded with $400M. The silver line alone cost 7 billion.

      • MRLeaver

        Not really true, unfortunately. Many who come to visit the Mall come as tour groups and they’ve already paid for a mode of transportation (their bus) so they’re not going to choose an alternative form no matter how great Metro is.

        The only way to stop them would be to limit where the buses could go, but the Mall transversers a major section of DC and it would be ludicrous to say that a bus couldn’t go on any of those streets (think 14, 12, 9, 7, 4, etc) this would actually be a wonderful thing, even if it were only bus parking – but personally I think that would be ridiculous. Build in car parking at $30 a day. Most will still take Metro, but some will choose to park…

        • Anonymous

          Not to mention, the word is out that Metro really sucks these days on the weekends. Lots of tourists actively avoid having to use it.

  • monkeydaddy

    Please don’t enable Mall CHUDs.

  • nathaniel

    A proposal of this type has been around for a while and it is a bad idea. Induced demand is a real thing and Constitution and Independence are already quite busy. Yes metro doens’t run great on the weekend, but remember that majority of visitors to the mall come to DC on vacation and are more likely to be on the mall during the week then on the weekend, metro is fine then.

  • Park Here

    RFK Stadium – THAT is where all the busses should park. It is a shamefully underutilized space. I cannot understand why the RFK parking lots are not used as a source of revenue. Charge for parking – commuters and tour busses – and have people take the bus or metro at the Stadium Armory stop – win win win. They could even have a revenue producing shuttle charging the fatass tourists who are too lazy to walk a nominal fee to ride a golf cart to the Metro. Not much different than parking at the airport.

  • Anonymous

    It’s not batsh*t insane, per se, but it certainly is ambitious. Something on a much smaller scale was done at the National Cathedral a couple of years ago. All tour buses now must use the underground facility which has eliminated them sitting around and clogging up Wisconsin.

  • jim_ed

    $400 million frankly sounds like an undershoot for a project of this magnitude. Factor in the size, the security requirements, and the fact that the water table is so high under the mall, and this project would cost an absolute fortune to build.

  • Wobble

    Doesn’t seem like a crazy idea to me. I have spent time in Cuenca, Ecuador, and they are putting parking under their major plazas. If the Ecuadorians can figure it out, why can we??

    • Well

      Because we are built on a swamp and a river, and the water table is high – hence all the issues/delays building the AA museum. They cant keep the water out!

    • wdc

      Because the capital of Ecuador sits at 10,000 feet above sea level, and DC sits at the confluence of two rivers?

  • Sebrof

    Putting aside the price tag and traffic issues, how would removing the buses and cars from the two lower levels during a heavy rain event even work, logistically?

    • wdc

      No overnight parking, like a lot of (most?) downtown garages. When heavy rain is in the forecast, you don’t open the lower levels the next morning.

  • Not worth it

    Loopy idea. There’s already garage parking on the Mall, at the Air & Space Museum, which was closed to the public many years ago, for security reasons. So how will this facility be secured, without causing major traffic on entry? Or how long until it’s also closed to public use and reserved for whoever is declared to be ‘safe’?

    • Anonymous

      That’s it. The number one reason, if not the only reason this wouldn’t work, is because of security. Second reason: designing an underground space that is both a practical parking garage and a flood reservoir would be both an engineering nightmare and cost prohibitive.

  • Anonymous

    Capture emissions for energy generation

    • Anonymous

      Resurrect dead on planet Jupiter.

  • reality

    Ugh – NO. This would just encourage more tourists to use their cars in the city. There’s already enough of that.


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