In August, the General Services Administration awarded a building contract valued at $75 million to Bethesda, Md.-based Clark Construction, the same company that erected the new National Museum of African American History and Culture.
The building permit issued by the secretary of the Interior was the last hurdle.
Zinke's office kept quiet about his position in the weeks before the groundbreaking. Opponents interpreted that as a positive sign, noting that the secretary, a retired Navy SEAL, might take a personal interest in how Eisenhower is memorialized.
They also hoped that, after a series of scandals involving Zinke's spending on private flights, he might be eager to make a public show at cracking down on government spending. When the permit was finally issued, it did not have his signature, a detail some opponents interpreted as a sign of his ambivalence about the project.
But even the staunchest opponents acknowledged that their fight was for naught, though they questioned whether the memorial could be completed on time and within its budget.
"The memorial process was a lesson in failure," said Justin Shubow, president of the National Civic Art Society and a longtime critic of the memorial's design and the approval process. "There was the rigged competition, outrageous cost, monstrous design and feckless agency approval."
"It's an example of Washington, D.C., at its worst," he said.
The memorial commission has set a target date to complete and dedicate the memorial of May 8, 2020, the 75th anniversary of Victory in Europe Day in World War II.
(Griffin Connolly contributed to this report.)
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