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Eisenhower Hometown Likes Ike Memorial Design

Dwight D. Eisenhower’s hometown is encouraging the stakeholders in his Washington, D.C., memorial to move forward with architect Frank Gehry’s contentious design.  

The City Commission of Abilene, Kan., passed a resolution in March pushing the Eisenhower Memorial Commission and others with oversight over the project, now 15 years in the making, to “take such actions as may be prudent and necessary to facilitate the construction.”  

Unfortunately for Abilene — the World War II hero’s final resting place and the site of his presidential library — the EMC must clear huge financial and bureaucratic obstacles before any building can begin on the 4-acre site just off the National Mall in Southwest D.C.  

The estimated price tag for the project, between project costs and operational costs, stands at $143.9 million, according to the EMC’s fiscal 2015 budget request . After the fiscal 2014 spending plan zeroed out construction funding and halved the EMC’s operating budget, the commission is requesting $19.3 million for construction and $2 million for commission operations. The EMC claims those resources, plus previously allocated funds, would be sufficient to complete the first phase of the memorial’s construction.  

To dedicate the memorial in 2017, the commission has announced a private fundraising goal of $35 million. In January, appropriators asked the EMC to give an update on those efforts. So far, it has secured roughly $1.7 million in gifts and pledges, with approximately $3 million in outstanding asks and proposals.  

Fundraisers have reached out to roughly 200 individual prospects, focusing on securing major gifts from donors in Georgia, Kansas and California. Between these three states, fundraisers have “built a pipeline of prospects with a giving capacity estimated at over $15,000,000,” the fiscal 2015 budget request states.  

Achieving shovel-ready status also requires the EMC to secure approval for Gehry's design from various federal agencies. The U.S. Commission of Fine Arts has given its preliminary approval, and continues to recommend changes necessary for final approval. The National Capital Planning Commission has so far declined to give preliminary approval, but the EMC is on the agenda for its April 3 meeting.  

Though the Eisenhower family has been critical of the design, especially depictions of the president's Kansas boyhood, the leaders of Abilene approve. Their resolution notes that the design would highlight "all phases" of Ike's life.  

Abilene Mayor John F. Ray said the city was happy that the memorial honored Eisenhower's roots.  

"One of the proudest things we can say is that Ike called Abilene home," he said in a statement circulated by the EMC.  

Abilene City Manager David B. Dillner said the city appreciates the importance of its "favorite son" to the nation. "As the memorial moves forward, and after its completion, we will continue to be a partner in promoting Eisenhower to the world.”