Environmental Review Process

The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) established an environmental policy that requires Federal agencies to consider the impacts of their proposed activities, programs, and projects on the environment. NEPA requires the Federal Government to disclose and consider the effects of major Federal actions on the human environment. Federal actions covered by NEPA include actions taken directly by the Federal Government and those requiring Federal approval.

The National Capital Planning Commission (NCPC) served as the lead federal agency for compliance with NEPA. NCPC worked in cooperation with the Smithsonian Institution to complete an Environmental Impact Statement for the Master Plan.

Purpose and Need

The purpose of a proposed South Mall Campus Master Plan is to guide future short-term and long-term renovation and development of the 17-acre area known as the South Mall Campus, which includes the Castle, the Quadrangle Building (the Ripley Center, the Sackler Gallery, the NMAfA, and the rooftop Enid A. Haupt Garden), the Freer Gallery, the AIB, the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, the Folger Garden, and the Ripley Garden.

The Master Plan is needed to meet SI's long-term space requirements and to address physical and operational deficiencies across the campus that impact visitor use and experience as well as SI's ability to implement its programs effectively and safely. SI identified the following needs for the campus:

  • Restore, repair, and rehabilitate historic properties;
  • Replace roofs and building systems that are at the end of their useful lives;
  • Improve accessibility and usability by individuals with disabilities;
  • Improve circulation throughout the campus, including creation of a clear east-west at-grade pedestrian connection from the east side of the Freer Gallery to the Hirshhorn Museum Plaza;
  • Improve access and visibility from the National Mall and the Castle for the NMAfA and Sackler Gallery entrances;
  • Create expanded and linked centralized visitor services and education spaces;
  • Provide additional museum and event space;
  • Establish a new central utility plant and related infrastructure to reduce energy and operating costs and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions;
  • Provide expanded below grade loading and delivery facilities serving the Quadrangle Building, Castle, AIB and Freer buildings; and
  • Update security measures to meet SI and federal requirements.