Around Town: The Fight for America's Front Yard

Catherine Trifiletti

MacKenzie Babb (Trust for the Nat'l Mall, Jerry DiStefano (CohnReznick), Maegan Sweeney, Darryl Rippeteau and Annica Biegler of Rippeteau Architects (photo by Brian Slaninka)

Amidst a group of young kids flying kites and a French couple smiling for a selfie in front of the Washington Monument, there is a looming truth that hangs over the National Mall. Dying trees, cracked sidewalks and a worn-down lawn plague the grounds, and have done so for years.

No one understands the Mall’s need for a facelift better than local real estate developer, , who partnered with the National Park Service in 2007 and founded the Trust for the National Mall. The non-profit organization has a simple and straightforward goal — restore and improve parts of the Mall that desperately need rehabbing.

As the razed lawn between the Capitol and the Washington Monument show, efforts are currently underway to make the grounds more environmentally sound. In addition to laying out new drought-resistant turf, cisterns are being installed to collect rainwater for sustainable irrigation practices. This restoration project is one of many that the Trust has lined up over the next several years.

On Tuesday evening at the Trust’s kickoff celebration at Fig & Olive in CityCenter, supporters gathered to discuss the organization’s luncheon. While guests sipped cocktails and sampled mediterranean fare, Akridge rallied the group to get involved immediately. As evidence of his commitment, he promised that he and his wife would match the first 250 donations that come in before the end of the year — cent-for-cent .

“I challenge you to see how much money you can take out of my pocket,” he said to the well-attended crowd, laughing.

Akridge reminded guests that not only is the National Mall America’s front yard, it is also the best yard in the world. MacKenzie Babb, communications manager for the Trust, pointed out that oftentimes D.C. is the only impression visitors from abroad get of the U.S. and, for that reason, it needs to better represent one of the best and brightest countries in the world.