Building Heights and Neighborhood Vitality

Washington DC planning director Harriet Tregoning, in a rebuttal to Paul Goldberger’s comments on the ongoing debate over raising the District’s building height limit:

She further explained her limit vs. no limit comment to Amanda Kolson Hurley of The Architect’s Newspaper:

The alternatives in reconsidering the federal interest in the height of buildings are not just to retain the current limits or eliminate height restrictions. In much of the city, we expect to continue to have a federal limit on building heights, albeit a possibly different or more varied limit.

The DC height limit debate offers a window into people’s thinking on the economic, physical, and social role of building height in cities. Tregoning’s suggestion that it isn’t an all-or-nothing debate is a good reminder that change-when done right-can help maintain a city’s vibrance, competitiveness, and desirability. Kolson Hurley notes that a height-limit change could attract developers to areas in need of investment. That, in turn, presents a different set of issues for discussion: ensuring that proposed projects provide the broadest possible benefits to the existing community, are economically viable, and maximize connections to sustainable transit (Metro, buses, bicycles, walkability). These are good issues to have, though, because if a formerly neglected neighborhood attracts the kind of developer interest to warrant these discussions, there’s a good chance that neighborhood has a brighter future.

Related: How D.C. Could Look if the Height Restriction Changes