The only thing missing from the National Mall? Reasonable Parking

Private plan includes underground garage and lake

WASHINGTON, D.C. - How much would you pay for a prime parking spot on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.?

Twenty-five million visitors flock to the nation’s village green each year, many of them by car or tour bus. On major tourist holidays such as July Fourth, drivers can circle for hours hoping to find a space.

Now a group called that National Coalition to Save Our Mall has put forth a proposal to use mostly private money to build a 1,000 car-bus garage, visitor center and lake – yes, a lake – beneath the National Mall outside the Smithsonian’s Natural History Museum.

The group estimates that the price tag for the parking paradise could reach $200,000 a spot. (The entire complex has a price range between $168 million and $284 million)

No, the plan for the lake is not part of some subterranean water park to complement the Smithsonian’s famed merry-go-round, but part of a solution to another long-standing Washington problem – flooding. Much of the capital is built on former swampland that has a disturbing tendency to flood.

The most recent flood, in 2006, shut down the National Archives, the IRS and several other federal buildings after several days of heavy rain. Even in drier times, the water table around the mall requires constant use of giant sump pumps.        

So beneath the planned parking decks, organizers would include a 34 million gallon floodwater reservoir. But wait, there’s more. Keeping all that greenspace green takes a lot of water, so there also would be cisterns to hold rainwater and basement water to supply a mall irrigation system.

Even though the National Coalition to Save Our Mall says the project would be funded with private donations, Congress still needs sign off.

A federally chartered commission or task force to manage construction on federal land is needed, and so far, despite some efforts by D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, that hasn’t happened.

Print this article Back to Top

DecodeDC's Mission

DecodeDC's foremost aim is to be useful. That means being a reliable, honest and highly entertaining source of insight and explanation. It also means providing multimedia coverage of Washington's people, culture, policies and politics that is enlightening and enjoyable. Whether it's a podcast, a video, an interactive graphic, a short story or a long analysis, it will be based on this guiding principle: We are in DC but not OF DC.