Medal Of Honor Museum Chooses Arlington, Texas Over Denver After Contentious RTD Discussions

Tryba Architects/Courtesy Downtown Denver Partnership
This rendering shows the proposed location of the National Medal of Honor Musuem on state-owned land found at the corner of Colfax and Lincoln in Denver, Colo.

A new museum dedicated to Medal of Honor recipients will be built in Arlington, Texas.

The National Medal of Honor Museum Foundation announced Wednesday afternoon that Arlington edged out Denver — both were the two finalists for the project.

“Arlington, Texas is the optimal location to build America’s next national treasure — the National Medal of Honor Museum,” said Joe Daniels, president and CEO of the National Medal of Honor Museum Foundation, in a statement. “All of us at the Museum were simply overwhelmed with the enthusiasm, warmth and level of commitment of those involved, who have worked beyond expectation to have the Museum come to Texas."

"Seventy recipients of the Congressional Medal of Honor have lived in the region and nearly 1.8 million veterans and active duty military currently call Texas home. Centuries of American history are filled with examples of selfless heroism and love of country shown by the men and women of this great state. We look forward to partnering with Gov. Abbott, Mayor Williams, public and private leaders, and the entire North Texas community as we carry out our important mission — to honor our nation’s Medal of Honor recipients for future generations.”

In a statement to CPR, Daniels said the decision wasn't easy to make.

"Choosing the home of America's first National Medal of Honor Museum was an extremely difficult decision — made even more so by the gracious hospitality of the people of Denver, as well as their deep love and respect for our nation’s military," Daniels said in the statement. "We want to thank Gov. Polis and Mayor Hancock, who embraced our vision and supported us throughout this process. It has been a true honor to get to know all the elected, business and civic leaders of this great community, and we hope to work together on future projects."

The Medal of Honor is given for extraordinary bravery in combat and is the nation’s highest and most prestigious military decoration that Congress can bestow.

This comes after a false start in South Carolina.

The museum was initially planned for a site in Mount Pleasant, a suburb in Charleston County. After years of negotiations, the plan fell apart as the foundation announced it would start to look elsewhere. 

Colorado elected officials, local stakeholders and some veterans groups advocated hard for the museum to come to Denver. A statement from Gov. Jared Polis’ office in August said, "It presents a historic opportunity to showcase all of the unique military and veterans assets in Colorado.”

President and CEO of the Downtown Denver Partnership, Tami Door, told reporters during a summer news conference that “this couldn't be a more premier project” to have in the heart of downtown and “we feel very fortunate to be in these discussions.”

That kind of support put pressure on the Regional Transportation District. 

RTD pays $123,000 annually on a 55-year lease for a 20,000 square-foot piece of land south of the Civic Center bus station at Colfax Avenue and Broadway. The foundation wanted that land so they could build a gateway park to the museum, and only offered $1 a year.

RTD’s board voted no on those terms in mid-September but changed course about a week later following backlash to a comment made by one board member and politicians who urged the board members to vote yes. The agency faces an impending budget shortfall and from a fiscal standpoint, it’s hard to pass on a desirable piece of downtown property for less than its value.

City council member Chris Hinds, who represents District 10 where the museum would be, wrote in a letter to RTD’s board: 

“The Museum will commemorate the heroic actions of each honoree, and it is absolutely fitting to have a museum of national caliber to recognize those who have preserved our Democracy… An affirmative vote simply demonstrates the Board’s recognition of the benefits of this project to the Denver Metro Area, Colorado, and our country. I urge the RTD Board to vote yes so we can continue the dialogue for this important asset.”