D.C. contemplates ending building height restriction with release of new study
Last week, the D.C. Office of Planning and the National Capital Planning Commission released the results of a study that sought to determine what would happen to the District if the 1910 Height of Buildings Act were repealed or altered to allow taller buildings.
Currently, the Height of Buildings Act limits building height to 90 feet in residential areas, 110 feet in commercial areas, and 130 feet along the city’s 160 feet-wide business streets.
Lawmakers have taken a hard look at D.C.’s height restriction ever since the full extent of the District’s future growth was realized. The Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments estimates that the greater Washington, D.C. area will add 1.6 million residents by 2040. Taller buildings would provide more living space for this growing populace and afford the region more economic growth to keep pace with the population.
The nearby area of Rosslyn, Virginia has recently added much height to its downtown area, promoting growth in the neighborhood. Washington, D.C. would similarly benefit from the addition of taller buildings, but has several key differences from Rosslyn that make lawmakers hesitant to change the Height Act. Chiefly, there is much concern over the effect that tall buildings would have on the center of the D.C. metro, where the Mall and its monuments sit.
At an NCPC meeting on July 24, presenters outlined three main approaches to increasing building height. First, lawmakers could change the street-to-height relationship, allowing buildings lining wider streets to reach greater heights. Second, heights could be raised in some areas on a case-by-case basis. And finally, a city-wide raise on the building height limit is also being considered. Washington City Paper posted an exhaustive set of photos displaying the projected effect taller buildings would have on the D.C. skyline, as seen from different areas of the city.
Over the course of the next week, four meetings will be held to present more information to the public and receive popular feedback.
Photo: NCinDC via Flickr