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Work to Begin in Spring on MLK Memorial

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[January 10, 2008]  WASHINGTON (AP) -- Construction is slated to begin this spring on the long-planned Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial on the National Mall.

Work on the monument would come more than a year after a ceremonial groundbreaking held in November 2006. After a slow fundraising start, organizers have collected about $87 million of the $100 million budget and are anticipating some major financial announcements next month, said Harry Johnson, president and chief executive of the foundation overseeing the project, which will feature a massive granite carving bearing King's likeness.

"We still need to raise a few more dollars but we're very confident that we're going to get there pretty soon," Johnson said.

As long as work starts by April or May as planned, he said, the project would still be on schedule for a 2009 opening. The foundation is now waiting for final permits from the National Park Service.

"I'm hoping within the next year people will be able to come to Washington and say, 'Hey, here it is,'" he said.

The memorial will sit on four acres along the edge of the Tidal Basin, between the Jefferson Memorial and Lincoln Memorial, where the civil rights pioneer delivered his "I Have a Dream" speech in 1963. It will feature stone carvings, a raised walkway and stone walls engraved with King's quotes.

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Congress passed legislation approving the project in 1996.

Financed almost entirely with private money -- mostly from corporations -- the project has encountered controversy recently over the selection of a Chinese sculptor to handle the featured work.

But protests over the decision not to hire a black or American artist have not affected fundraising or caused delays, organizers said.

A benefit concert in September that drew stars such as Usher, Aretha Franklin, Garth Brooks and Stevie Wonder raised some $2 million.


On the Net:

MLK Memorial Foundation: http://www.mlkmemorial.org/

[Associated Press; By BEN EVANS]

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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