The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts broke ground Thursday on a major expansion to be completed in time for the 100th anniversary of the slain president's birthday in 2017.
Vice President Joe Biden oversaw a ceremonial groundbreaking that used the same shovel then-president Lyndon Johnson wielded in 1964 when construction on the cultural venue first began.
"Everything needs to be refreshed a little bit," said the center's chairman, financier David Rubenstein, who is footing half the cost of the $100 million undertaking.
Opened in 1971, the Kennedy Center is the nation's biggest and busiest venue for music, dance and theater, hosting hundreds of events a year.
Largely underground, the 60,000 square foot (5,575 square meter) expansion -- designed by top New York architect Steven Holl -- will feature three pavilions, including one that will sit like a wharf on the Potomac River.
Exterior spaces will include an open area with a projection wall, enabling the public to watch -- for free -- performances taking place inside the center's theaters and concert halls.
In remembrance of the 35th president of the United States, a grove of 35 ginkgo trees will be planted, which should turn a golden color in November, the month Kennedy was assassinated in 1963.
And a reflecting pool is to have the same dimensions as PT-109, the torpedo patrol boat that Kennedy commanded when it was attacked by Japanese forces in the Pacific during World War II.
Rubenstein said he has challenged contractors to finish work by May 29, 2017, the day Kennedy would have turned 100 years old.
"This building will provide space for people to inspire and reimagine their work," said Kennedy's granddaughter Rose Kennedy Schlossberg, a Los Angeles artist who is the only Millenia on the center's board of trustees.