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Plans For Kennedy Senate Institute Unveiled

An aerial view of the proposed Edward M. Kennedy Institute (near), adjacent to the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library. (Courtesy of the Edward M. Kennedy Institute)
An aerial view of the proposed Edward M. Kennedy Institute (near), adjacent to the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library. (Courtesy of the Edward M. Kennedy Institute)

Architectural plans were unveiled Wednesday for the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate, which will sit adjacent to his brother's presidential library in Boston and include a replica of the chamber where Kennedy served for 47 years until his death last summer.

The 44,000-square-foot facility, designed by Rafael Vinoly, will be built with private and federal money.

Peter Meade, president and CEO of the nonprofit institute, said Kennedy conceived of the idea after marking his 40th year in the Senate. He envisioned a center where visitors, especially high school and college students, could learn about the history of the Senate and participate in mock debates on major issues that senators have grappled with, Meade said.

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The two-story building will include classrooms, exhibit space and a timeline of the Senate from its first meetings in New York City to the current 111th session of Congress.

A centerpiece will be the representation of the Senate chamber, Meade said.

"You could walk over to Sen. (Scott) Brown's desk, for example, and find that in the chair before him was Sen. Edward Kennedy, before him was John F. Kennedy, before him Charles Sumner, Daniel Webster and John Quincy Adams," Meade said.

Kennedy, a Democrat, died Aug. 25 of brain cancer. Brown, a Republican, won an upset special election victory in January to succeed him.

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Meade said the institute has raised about $50 million in private donations, including from corporations and unions, and has secured $38.6 million in federal funding. He said that private fundraising will continue and that more federal allocations are likely.

Meade defended the use of government money for the project, saying that the center will be affiliated with the University of Massachusetts-Boston and that the government regularly provides funding for projects at colleges and universities.

"It's a public building serving a public purpose at the largest public university in the Commonwealth," he said.

Critics such as Jennifer Nassour, chairwoman of the Massachusetts Republican Party, say public money should not be used for the project.

"Honor Ted Kennedy's life and legacy by giving struggling taxpayers a break. With our nation's debt soaring past $13 trillion and rising unemployment, private funding is the most prudent course here," Nassour said in a statement.

Vinoly's design for the institute echoes the architecture of the seven-story John F. Kennedy Presidential Library & Museum, which was designed by prominent architect I.M. Pei and opened on Boston's Columbia Point in 1979.

Groundbreaking is scheduled in September, with construction expected to be completed by 2013.

-- Here are the institute's design plans (Scribd):

http://www.scribd.com/doc/34997847/Edward-M-Kennedy-Institute-Design

This program aired on July 28, 2010. The audio for this program is not available.

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