How high is up? We’re still not sure

Navy_MemorialThe National Capital Planning Commission rejected a request to raise building heights in Washington, saying it wants further study before amending the 1910 Heights of Buildings Act that limits buildings to 160 feet.

Typical government bureaucracy, but in this case it doesn’t hurt to make sure the needed changes are done correctly.

Washington needs to increase its building heights. Population has grown 20 percent over 13 years and there’s only so much space. There’s a terrific book called “$20 a Gallon” that projects how reverse migration will increase major cities as gas prices rise to cause more of a blend of commercial/residential like many European cities. For once, city leaders are ahead of the curve and yet Mayor Vincent Gray was rebuffed after gaining a key panel’s approval before slammed by the commission.

The commission’s panel wanted to raise downtown buildings 40 feet to 200 and allow taller buildings outside the historic core. Personally, I’d keep downtown at 160 feet and let the outlying neighborhoods grow taller. Still, it’s a solid plan for the future.

What I love about Washington is the sunlight crossing the city through sunset. It’s not dark hours earlier like New York City. It provides a sense of freedom from the city despite being downtown. The commission was right to keep skyscrapers from towering over the White House and out monuments. If you’ve ever seen Philadelphia’s historic core you’d know why.

Change in inevitable. My grandparents’ Washington was quite different from today. And, my grandchildren’s Washington will surely be different. We just owe it to them to make sure the future is a great one.

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