Arlington National Cemetery breaks ground for huge columbarium
November 30, 2011
By J.D. Leipold
WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Nov. 30, 2011) -- Arlington National Cemetery began its first major construction project in nearly eight years with a ground-breaking ceremony Nov. 30 for a 20,000-niche columbarium, which will extend the life of the cemetery to 2024.
Construction on the ninth columbarium at ANC begins in January with a completion date expected in June 2013, according to the cemetery's chief engineer, Col. Victoria Bruzese. She pointed out the size of the new structure will dwarf the previous eight columbariums, the largest of which contains 8,000 niches and the smallest 3,000.
"This will be 540 feet long, 116 feet wide, and at its highest elevation about 11 feet tall," Bruzese said following the ground-breaking. "We'll have more than 20,000 niches which gives us the ability to have three to four inurnments within each niche -- service member, spouse, children, so we're looking at more than 60,000 inurnments, so that's significant."
The new columbarium will be almost the length of two football fields.
Kathryn Condon, executive director of the Army National Cemeteries Program told the audience of mostly cemetery grounds-keepers and staff workers that construction of the new columbarium would "extend the life of our inurnment space out to 2024."
While the new columbarium will add 11 years of inurnments after its 2013 completion, the cemetery also plans to expand its grounds on two sides by another 70 acres. That will further extend the cemetery's ability to handle inurnments, burials and possibly mausoleums out to the 2050s, said Bruzese. She noted the biggest challenge to overcome will be the lack of attention paid to the infrastructure over the years.
"There are two expansion opportunities here on the horizon; our Millennium Project, which is a 30-acre combination of land we acquired from Fort Myer and the National Park Service, and already existing ANC land that will increase our in-ground and niche burial capability," Bruzese said. The second expansion includes a 40-acre plot that's presently occupied by the Navy Annex on the south side of the cemetery.
Bruzese said she requested the chief engineer position at the cemetery following a deployment to Afghanistan. One reason she cited was that her father and her grandfather are inurned in columbariums five and three.
"But when I heard about the challenges going on here, I wanted to be part of the solution," she said. "I think that's what you'll find with anybody who's on the staff here they want to be part of the solution in returning the dignity and honor, not only to the cemetery, but to the veterans who lie here."