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Unfortunately, too often our visitors leave in disappointment and disillusionment. As Vice President Humphrey has said, they come to Washington for education and enjoyment andWhat they do get very often are parking tickets, a feeling of being strangers and intruders, and above all, shabby, cold indifference to their coming here on what truly is a pilgrimage for themselves and their children.
The problems that beset visitors to this city are well known to all of us who have attempted to guide our friends and constituents through the city. Traffic congestion, lack of parking spaces, misinformation, and confusion are problems that face our vacationing visitors. Their excitement and enthusiasm are thwarted by this situation.
We need a Visitor Center. H.R. 12603 offers a plan to provide for the use of portions of Union Station for a National Visitor Center and a parking lot. Passage of the National Visitor Center Act of 1967 would be a great forward step toward making our visitors feel like guests, and not like strangers.
Passage of H.R. 12603 would mean that we could preserve Union Station, which is an unusual landmark in itself. We could have parking facilities within walking distance of Capitol Hill, but it would not be necessary to distort the beauty of the Hill complex. We would have a new railroad station. Our visitors would be able to begin their stay in Washington with a welcome. They could leave their cars, collect information and make their plans at the beginning of the day, in pleasant surroundings and within sight of interested, helpful guides.
We need look only as far as Williamsburg, Va., to see how successful a visitor center can be. For many years, in Williamsburg, the Williamsburg Information Center has made trips to that historic Virginia area more meaningful and more enjoyable for millions of visitors.
Our Visitor Center here in Washington would do more than offer information and a drinking fountain. Silently, it would say, "We're glad you're here. It's your Capital, and your city, and we hope you have a pleasant stay." The Center can make our visitors guests, not strangers.
Financial objections to the development and construction of a National Visitor Center have been met, and H.R. 12603 offers a compromise that should alarm no one. Under the provisions of H.R. 12603, $19.5 million will be spent by the Union Station owners with no Federal funds involved in construction or renovation. After improvements are made, the General Services Administration will lease the building, and a good portion of the lease payments can be recouped from parking fees and the sale of goods and services.
Today, there are those who worry about the attitude of youth, about world opinion toward the United States of America, about the lack of patriotism in this country.
We have the opportunity to help to make a visit to Washington, D.C., exciting, educational, and inspiring. That's a good place to start an attempt to revitalize national pride. Our Government is the most democratic, most free in the world. Let's allow our visitors to see that.
Again, I want to express my appreciation for this opportunity to appear before the subcommittee, and I want to say that I support the National Visitor Center Act of 1967. This is a good bill, a strong bill. It presents answers to several problems we shall have to solve in the immediate future and, therefore, it deserves early enactment.
Mr. Gray. Thank you very much, my distinguished colleague, for
that very forthright and enlightening statement. We deeply appreciate your appearance here this morning.
Are there any questions?
Mr. WRIGHT. May I simply say to our colleague, we are grateful for his coming and being with us and presenting this statement, which is clear cut and persuasive and also very eloquent. We appreciate his being with us.
Mr. ANNUNZIO. Thank you very much.
I should like to call now Mr. Lawson B. Knott, Jr., the distinguished Administrator of the General Services Administration, who I understand is accompanied by Mr. Loy M. Shipp, Jr., Deputy Assistant Commissioner for Space Management of the Public Buildings Service.
Mr. CRAMER. Before Administrator Knott testifies, Mr. Chairman, as a member of the Study Commission, along with the gentleman from Iowa, he having done more of the work on the Commission, as far as his subcommittee is concerned
Mr. Gray. You were both very valuable members.
given to the Study Commission, not only by its Chairman, Secretary Udall, but also by the distinguished chairman of this subcommittee, Congressman Gray, who spent tireless and endless hours and efforts to try to pull this thing together, and to come up with something that would make sense and be feasible in a year when spending cuts are being made in many places, to devise something that could possibly attract the support of the Congress.
I want also at this time to express my appreciation to the witness, Lawson Knott, for his cooperation. The work of the Commission is one of the most cooperative and productive efforts, accomplished within a short period of time, in my experience in Washington.
I also would like to express to Mr. Schwengel, my colleague, my appreciation for his effort. Incidentally, he was one of the first, 7 or 8 years ago, to propose a Visitor Center for Washington.
Mr. GRAY. The gentleman is eminently correct.
Mr. CRAMER. That, and the cooperation on the Commission on a bipartisan basis, indicates the interest on all sides for finding a solution to this very perplexing problem of what to do to provide necessary information and services to visitors to the Nation's Capital—the Capital, after all, being representative of the people themselves, and they being entitled properly to see what is going on here and how Washington operates and thus, I hope, become more interested in it.
The solution presented is a very fine one, and one which makes sense, certainly, to this
Member of the House. It has the valuable aspect of preserving Union Station and of providing facilities close to the Capitol and the rest of Washington.
It will be fascinating to see the things developed out of this Commission study and which we hope will receive the action of Congress. This is the beginning of an effort to pay proper attention to the needs of visitors in the Nation's Capital. I congratulate the chairman, the other members of the Commission, and, in particular, the witness who is now before us.
Mr. GRAY. Let me again state how glad I am to have had the opportunity to have worked with the distinguished gentleman, the ranking
minority member on the full Committee on Public Works, the gentleman from Florida, and also the gentleman from Iowa, Mr. Schwengel. They both have been very helpful along with the other members of the Commission. As you have stated so eloquently, this has been a bipartisan effort, and we have not had one word of dissent. This has been a mutual undertaking to try to solve many very serious problems. The problem of what to do for visitors coming to our Nation's Capital goes back more than 100 years, and it has grown progressively worse every year.
I am sure, when the full hearings of this Commission are printed later this week and made available, one's imagination will be staggered at some of the frustrations the American people and foreign visitors have experienced in coming here.
For example, we found in our studies that the average stay in Washington for visitors is less than 2 days, mainly because they cannot find a place to park. They are frustrated on how to go about seeing all of the facilities around Washington. Even in their average 2-day stay, tourists combined spent here last year almost $400 million. You can see what an economic impact this can make on the National Capital, and certainly it would save a lot of our present Federal payment if we were able properly to accommodate the people so they could stay 4 or 5 or 6 days as they intended when they
This legislation and the need for a Visitor Center has far-reaching implications, not only economically but because of the image this Nation's Capital should present to this country and the people around the world.
I did not want to go into detail because Mr. Udall will present the full Commission report when it is printed later on this week or sometime next week, but since the gentleman from Florida commented, I want certainly to agree with everything he has said, except where he refers to the gentleman from Illinois now in the chair.
With that, we will now recognize the very distinguished Administrator of the General Services Administration, who is a valued member of the 21-member Commission and who was a real inspiration and help the Commission. We now recognize you, Mr. Knott, and thank you very much for coming.
Mr. WRIGHT. Perhaps it might be in order at this point to ask unanimous consent to include in the record the statements of any other Members of the Congress who may not be able to appear in person and testify.
Mr. GRAY. Without objection the letters will be inserted later. Mr. GRAY. We will now hear from Mr. Knott.
STATEMENT OF HON. LAWSON B. KNOTT, JR., ADMINISTRATOR,
GENERAL SERVICES ADMINISTRATION, ACCOMPANIED BY LOY M. SHIPP, JR., DEPUTY ASSISTANT COMMISSIONER FOR SPACE MANAGEMENT, PUBLIC BUILDINGS SERVICE; AND KAREL YASKO, SPECIAL ASSISTANT TO COMMISSIONER, PUBLIC BUILDINGS SERVICE
Mr. KnotT. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
As always, Mr. Chairman, I am pleased to appear before your subcommittee, particularly today, to discuss H.R. 12603, a bill to supple
ment the purposes of the Public Buildings Act of 1959 (73 Stat. 479), by authorizing agreements and leases with respect to certain properties in the District of Columbia, for the purpose of a national visitor center, and for other purposes.
As you indicated, I have with me Mr. Loy M. Shipp, Jr., Deputy Assistant Commissioner for Space Management of our Public Buildings Service, who has been looking into the value aspects of the property in question. Also, I have with me Mr. Karel Yasko, who sat in for me many times in the subcommittee hearings which you chaired.
The purpose of the bill is to provide for a National Visitor Center to be located in the present Union Station in Washington, D.C.
The objectives of the National Visitor Center for Washington are well outlined in the act (Public Law 89–790) which created the Study Commission of which I am a member. These indicated a Center which would provide information and assistance to visitors and students coming to the Nation's Capital, facilitate their enjoyment and appreciation of the many cultural and historical features to be found here, and provide special services to visiting groups and assistance to foreign visitors, parking and local transportation.
Of the several sites investigated and studied for the Center, the Union Station offers the means for implementing such a facility in the short period required for conversion and with no capital outlay by the Government.
Among the many features of the Nation's Capital is the plan of the city based on that prepared by Pierre L'Enfant and developed by others over the years. One of these groups was the McMillan Commission, which in its plan of 1901 indicated the location of a railroad station for Washington which would eliminate the station and tracks which crossed the Mall. By relating the Union Station, which was completed in 1907, to the Capital, it dramatized the significance of the Capital to the visitor who now enters the Washington metropolitan area at over 20 million a year, about 75 percent of whom stop for some period of time. By 1970 this number is expected to reach over 24 million, and in 1980 over 35 million.
While other means of transportation have developed since the construction of the Union Station, the location of the structure still holds an important planning position in the city. Designed by Daniel Burnham, member of the McMillan Commission, and credited with the admonition that we make no little plans," the significance of the building has been cited by leading architects and critics. Its original function was a reception center for large numbers of visitors who reached Washington by train. As a Visitor Center it will receive, welcome, and inform greater numbers who arrive by the varied modes of today's transportation. Parking facilities for 4,000 vehicles to be provided over the tracks and north of the present concourse will permit
many of the 75 percent who arrive by private automobile to store their vehicle during their stay and travel about the city by convenient public transportation. By removing these automobiles from the city's traffic, one urban problems can be eased.
We support the objectives of H.R. 12603, but believe that it would be more appropriate and effective if the role of GSA in connection with the negotiation and execution of the agreements and leases be consultative rather than as an executive agency. The bill would provide that plans for alterations of the Union Station Building shall be
approved by the Secretary of the Interior and that he shall be solely responsible for the management of the leased property, including the offering of transportation services for visitors to and from the center and points of intensive visitation and interest in the District of Columbia. It is therefore recommended that references to the Administrator of the General Services Administration and the Secretary of the Interior on lines 5 and 6, page 1, and lines 8 and 9, page 3 of the bill be changed to refer to the Secretary of the Interior after consulting with the Administrator of General Services.
GSA has undertaken, as a member of the Study Commission, a study of the station building and the proposed site of the parking facilities for the purpose of estimating a fair rental for these properties. However, pending a firm agreement as to the location of the proposed new terminal facilities and certain other details, we question whether it is advisable to fix the annual rental limitations as precisely as proposed in the bill. We suggest, alternatively, that the bill be revised to provide that the annual rental may not exceed the fair rental value determined by appraisal and in no event exceed $3 million.
Mr. Chairman, this, in brief, is my statement concerning the bill. As you know, we had a relatively short time to comment on the bill. We have furnished the committee with a report which was cleared with the Bureau late yesterday. We hope that will be helpful. In essence, it provides much the same as my statement here.
We would be glad to answer any questions or to come back after the full report has been printed and published, as we had hoped would be done before this hearing, and supplement any statements at that time.
Mr. Gray. Thank you, Mr. Knott, for a very fine and concise statement. We certainly will consider the suggestions you have made. As I understand your statement, you would rather be on a basis of consulting with the Secretary instead of having the authority to enter into agreements as Administrator of GSA. Is that not essentially your request?
Mr. KNOTT. Yes.
Mr. Gray. You wish to be a consultant to the Secretary of the Interior rather than being a party to the contract.
Mr. KNOTT. These matters in the bil] are joint enterprises, and I find it difficult to jointly carry out between two agencies the same function. I think it better to vest in the head of one agency the authority that this bill would provide.
Mr. GRAY. I think you are eminently correct, not only for that reason, but also by virtue of the fact that the Park Service would request in their annual budget request the funds with which to operate the center. If you had joint responsibility for entering into agreements, you might have joint responsibility for requesting the funds, and this would be a complicated procedure. We certainly will take that into consideration.
There is one question I would like to ask concerning the fair rental value. We will have the president of the Washington Terminal Co. here later this morning, but it is our understanding that on the existing facilities they have figured about a 5-percent return on investment and about 6-percent return on the capital they will have to borrow.
As General Services Administrator, you, of course, have jurisdiction over the Public Buildings Service which is constructing at the present