Building Heights Analysis

District of Columbia Office of Planning

Building heights in Washington, DC have been controlled by the Building Heights Act of 1910. As the downtown reaches full build-out, Congress and the National Capital Planning Commission asked whether the Act should be amended to allow greater heights at selected locations. PES worked with the District of Columbia Office of Planning in testing the potentials for new and renovated buildings to take advantage of that additional height. The analysis tested the financial feasibility of adding floors to existing buildings, tearing down existing structures to build taller buildings, and developing high-rise buildings on vacant and underutilized properties. Financial feasibility depends upon not only the costs of high-rise development but also the future revenues that can be achieved given rent and price levels. To capture the likely variation in market response by location, PES tested sites across the city. Based on judgments as to the likely market response, PES estimated the fiscal and economic impacts of the new heights, considering such factors as the support that higher density development can give to local retailers.