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Mayor Vincent C. Gray Announces District’s Consultant Teams for Study of City’s Building Heights

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Mayor Vincent C. Gray Announces District’s Consultant Teams for Study of City’s Building Heights

Height Master Plan to Examine Impacts of Height on Federal & Local Interests

(WASHINGTON, DC) Mayor Vincent C. Gray today announced the consultant teams selected by the District to support the development of the congressionally requested Height Master Plan for the District of Columbia. House Oversight Committee Chairman Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) asked the District and the National Capital Planning Commission (NCPC) to create a joint Height Master Plan that will explore the impact of strategic changes to the federal Height of Buildings Act of 1910 (The Height Act) and determine the extent to which the Height Act continues to serve both the federal and District government interests. The Height Act is a federal law that imposes restrictions on the height of all buildings within the District’s boundaries.

“I am excited to have these experienced and highly regarded experts provide their knowledge and experience to help us take this once-in-a-century opportunity to strategically examine how we can preserve this city’s unique and iconic skyline while exploring how to ensure the Height Act continues to meet federal and District interests,” said Mayor Gray.

In response to the committee’s request, the District and NCPC developed a joint proposal that is guided by the following principles:

  • Ensuring the prominence of federal landmarks and monuments by preserving their views and setting;
  • Maintaining the horizontality of the monumental city skyline; and
  • Minimizing the negative impacts to nationally significant historic resources, including the L’Enfant Plan. 

Additionally, the study will consider local economic-development goals as well as federal interests such as security, local community input, compatibility with surrounding neighborhoods and other factors.

 The DC Office of Planning (OP) is leading the District’s efforts in partnership with NCPC on the study. The District has contracted consultant services for two studies: 

  • Economic Feasibility Analysis that looks at the effects or limitations of construction costs at various height-level alternatives and an economic projection of the consequential effects of changes in building height at the same height alternatives. The consultant team is led by Partners for Economic Solutions (PES), a Certified Small Disadvantaged Business with extensive experience in modeling development feasibility and the effect of zoning as well as economic and fiscal impact analysis. PES is being supported by Structura, Inc., an expert in the design, analysis and investigation of building structures in the DC region, and the James G. Davis Construction Corporation, which is providing cost estimates. “This critical issue will affect the city's livability in the coming decades,” said Anita Morrison, Principal of PES. “PES is excited to be providing the economic perspective.”

  • District of Columbia Height Master Plan Modeling Analysis to create design studies of varying building heights in areas throughout the District to understand the impacts they could have to the city’s character. The modeling study team is led by Skidmore, Owings and Merrill, LLC – (SOM) one of the leading architecture, interior design, engineering, and urban-planning firms in the world, with extensive experience with DC projects. The SOM team also includes CyberCity 3D, Inc., a leader in 3D geospatial building generation which created and will update 3D GIS data for buildings in the District; Digital Design and Imaging Service Inc., which will provide aerial imaging and viewshed analysis; and AMT, LLC Consulting Engineers and Land Surveyors and Capital Pixel, both DC Certified Business Enterprise (CBE) and Small Business Enterprise (SBE) companies that will provide 3D modeling and rendering services. “We see this study as a centennial opportunity to cast the next vision for the District of Columbia,” stated Rod Garrett, FAIA, Director of SOM’s DC Office. “From L'Enfant's original plan of 1791 and the Height Act of 1910, this analysis should guide us through the next 100 years.” 

NCPC has contracted with AECOM, an interdisciplinary firm with expertise in urban design and planning in the Washington area, to develop case studies and compile best practices from around the world for managing building heights in thriving capital cities. 

NCPC and OP will host public meetings starting in May to present and gather public feedback on the Height Master Plan. NCPC (composed of presidential appointees and representatives from the District of Columbia, federal agencies and Congress) will vote on the plan’s recommendations. Recommendations will go to Congress this fall. Please visit www.ncpc.gov/heightstudy for more information, public meeting dates, videos and opportunities for the public to sign up for updates and to comment online. 

The Height Act is a federal law that can be modified only through congressional action. Any changes to the law proposed by Congress will not pre-empt local decisions by the District government about whether and when any changes to building heights would occur. The District would undertake amendments to its Comprehensive Plan and then initiate any zoning changes deemed appropriate through its normal processes, including substantial public input, to respond to any congressional modifications to the Height Act.