Part of the excitement of the Rendell administration was his frenzy to create new cultural landmarks for Philadelphia. Here's the creation of one of them.
RENDELL UNVEILS A REVISED CONSTITUTION CENTER PLAN
IT SHOWS A LOWER COST AND A SLIGHTLY DIFFERENT LOCATION. VISITORS WILL TAKE AN INTERACTIVE TOUR THROUGH HISTORY.
BYLINE: Howard Goodman, INQUIRER STAFF WRITER
SECTION: LOCAL; Pg. A01
It will be a temple to America's civic religion and a multimedia show, a theme-park ride through U.S. history and a forum for scholars and debates, a tourist lure and an oasis for reviving citizenship's soul.
The National Constitution Center, for nearly a decade a fuzzy concept with a toehold on Independence Mall, is coming into sharper view.
As Mayor Rendell outlined it yesterday, the center will be a $123 million facility on the north side of Arch Street, facing Independence Hall two blocks south. Target groundbreaking: Sept. 17, Constitution Day, 2000.
Flanked by University of Pennsylvania President Judith Rodin at a news conference at City Hall, Rendell announced that Penn will serve as the center's academic arm, producing conferences, radio programs, a Web site and scholarly works to help bring constitutional issues to life.
Rendell also unveiled an 8-minute video, narrated by actor James Earl Jones, former President Bush and newscaster Andrea Mitchell, featuring artists' conceptions of the center, showing how state-of-the-art museum technologies can be harnessed to illustrate how the Constitution affects everyday Americans and has inspired millions of others around the world.
Rendell said center officials intend to run the slickly produced video for government, business and foundation leaders - President Clinton among them - as they launch a national fund-raising drive.
"We have no illusions that this will be easy," Rendell said, evoking a center that will be as much national asset as local tourist attraction. "But this will be a museum of immense importance."
Rendell, chairman of the project since December, said he has overcome his own skepticism about the project. When he took over, he said, he demanded a hard look into whether the would-be high-tech celebration of the Constitution was either practical or necessary.
Now the consultants' studies are in, he said, and it's clear that the center is doable. More than that - in a nation in which six out of 10 Americans are said to be unable to identify the Bill of Rights - it's a must.
"There's an extraordinarily great need," Rendell said, for a facility that will "open entirely new vistas of understanding and knowledge about the Constitution."