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Posted at 10:56 AM ET, 01/25/2011

Hemmed in by the Height Act

By Aaron Morrissey

Ah, the Height Act -- that singular piece of regulation, whose repeal, many would have you believe, would go a long way toward solving any number of problems that Washington currently faces: from traffic to housing, retail to population growth. Such opponents of the act will certainly have cringed upon reading this report in the Washington Post, explaining how a potential development over the rails behind Union Station which would scrape -- or violate, depending on your perspective -- the limit is yet again being slapped with accusations that it will "scar" the area. Oh, the horror, the horror!

Burnham Place, Akridge's long-planned mixed-use plan for the space above the tracks adjacent to Union Station, has had to leap over several hurdles -- for instance, as we noted nearly six years ago, "excavating an active rail yard is complicated and in some cases cost-prohibitive" -- to even get to this point. But based on Jonathan O'Connell's story, the biggest hurdle the now eight-years-old project has to clear remains the city's height restriction:

[Continue reading Aaron Morrissey's post at]

Aaron Morrissey blogs at DCist. The Local Blog Network is a group of bloggers from around the D.C. region who have agreed to make regular contributions to All Opinions Are Local.

By Aaron Morrissey  | January 25, 2011; 10:56 AM ET
Categories:  D.C., HotTopic, Local blog network, development, economy  
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It is not the city height restriction, it is compliance with it. it's the law, and one I like very much.

This will be resolved, and the developer will get their way, and hopefully, the developer will make a nice building. But in DC, I doubt that...

To always blame ugly buildings on the Height Act is to say there are no qualified and interesting architects and engineers.

One thing I will support the C100 on is the Height Act. DCist wishes to scrap the Height Act, and build to the sky!

Posted by: Greent | January 25, 2011 11:26 AM | Report abuse

Why this project should not be built:

It's plug-ugly, and that's saying something, considering the uniformly ugly buildings surrounding it.

It will loom over lower buildings around it, making First Street NE more of a depressing, sunless, dangerous canyon than it already is.

There is not enough Metrorail capacity for the additional ridership this will cause, to say nothing of street and parking capacity.

Who is dumb enough to want to live in an apartment that overlooks railyards and have to listen to Metro cars toot their horns every three minutes when they enter and exit the tunnel from the ground-level track?

Not everybody wants to transform downtown DC into downtown Manhattan.

Posted by: WashingtonDame | January 25, 2011 12:20 PM | Report abuse

And for the record, I have worked just north of Union Station since 1996, so I know the area very well (probably much better than Morrissey). There are so many vacant office buildings right now in this area, it's ridiculous. The last thing we need right now is another construction project looming over the other buildings.

Posted by: WashingtonDame | January 25, 2011 12:27 PM | Report abuse

I can't believe the ridiculous hysteria.

Burham Place will be no taller than anything else - and it will hardly "scrape" views or "loom over" or the vicinity or "Manhattenize" downtown DC.

It's just another bunch of typical unimaginative DC "tissue box" buildings that will look like virtually everything else nearby. The only difference is that they will about 30 feet higher because it will be ajecent to the H Street bridge.

Get over yourselves, already.

The height limits are archaic and just plain stupid. If they've accomplished anything, it's been to keep DC a second or third-tier city with artifically high commercial rents, sprawl, and awful traffic. Not to mention terribly BORING buildings.

Posted by: ceefer66 | January 25, 2011 7:52 PM | Report abuse

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