John F. Kennedy photo

Memorandum Concerning Improvements in federal Office Space and the Redevelopment of Pennsylvania Avenue.

June 01, 1962

Memorandum for:

The Secretary of Commerce

The Secretary of Labor

The Director, Bureau of the Budget

The Administrator of General Services Administration

The Special Assistant to the President for Cabinet and Departmental Relations

The Chairman, National Capital Planning Commission

I have reviewed the report of the Ad Hoc Committee on federal Office Space. This report provides a long-needed perspective on federal office space problems and prospects in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area.

I am requesting each department and agency head to give immediate study to the report and take appropriate action. Future planning for the acquisition and use of office space is to be guided by the findings and recommendations of this report.

I will appreciate a progress report one year from now by the Administrator of General Services with regard to federal office space and the adoption of improved architectural standards. I should like a similar report on progress from the Chairman of the National Capital Planning Commission with regard to the improvement of Pennsylvania Avenue.


Note: At a cabinet meeting on August 4, 1961, the President directed that a survey be made of the Government's immediate and long-term space needs, with particular reference to the Greater Washington area. An ad hoc committee was established consisting of the Secretaries of Commerce and Labor, the Director of the Bureau of the Budget, the Administrator of General Services, and the Special Assistant to the President for Cabinet and Departmental Relations.

In reporting to the President, on May 13, the Committee pointed out that the problem of office space in the District of Columbia area was acute and that with each succeeding year the needs increased. The report noted that the steady growth of personnel in the area, combined with a low level of public building construction, had produced a haphazard pattern of space procurement and continued reliance on temporary and obsolete buildings, some of which dated from World War I. The Committee recommended a 10-year plan providing for a minimum of 12 new federal buildings, together with the elimination of existing temporary and obsolete Government-owned buildings. The design of the new buildings, the Committee emphasized, should provide efficient and economical facilities for the use of Government agencies, and should provide visual testimony to the dignity, enterprise, vigor, and stability of the American Government.

The Committee further recommended that immediate attention be given to improving the appearance of Pennsylvania Avenue. It noted that "the north side presents a scene of desolation; block after block of decayed nineteenth century buildings, many of which are vacant above the first story, only rarely interspersed by partially successful efforts at modernization." The Capitol, it pointed out, is increasingly cut off from the most developed part of the city by a blighted area that is unsightly by day and empty by night. The report stated that a great many of the buildings were soon to be torn down and replaced by new structures, both private and public, and that this presented an opportunity for a dramatic transformation in the appearance of the Avenue, with only a marginal increase in projected expenditures. "As conceived by L'Enfant," the Committee stated, "the 'grand axis' of the City of Washington was to be Pennsylvania Avenue from the Capitol to the White House, expressing symbolically both the separation of powers and the essential unity in the American form of Government."

The report concluded with the recommendation that central responsibility for planning the redevelopment of the Avenue should reside with the National Capital Planning Commission; for the design and construction of the new federal buildings, with the General Services Administration.

John F. Kennedy, Memorandum Concerning Improvements in federal Office Space and the Redevelopment of Pennsylvania Avenue. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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