The super-nifty District, Measured blog from the D.C. Office of Revenue Analysis is out with another great post today, showing where there’s vacant land in the District. The results, the author suggests, have implications for D.C. development. In the debate over proposed changes to the 1910 Height of Buildings Act to allow for taller buildings in the city, proponents of the changes argued that the city’s small footprint couldn’t accommodate enough development to serve the city’s growing population without the ability to build higher. Critics countered that there’s lots of vacant land in the city, and that constraining heights encourages development where it’s lacking, particularly east of the Anacostia River. The map above suggests that there’s still plenty of room to grow, although of course we probably don’t want to start building in the Arboretum or in other parks.
But the interactive map gets even more interesting when you toggle over to the other categories. The map above shows land that falls under the jurisdiction of the District of Columbia. Here’s a map of the vacant land controlled by the federal government:
It’s still mostly east of the river, but it’s also just a whole lot more. In ZIP code 20020, there’s more than 53 million square feet of vacant land controlled by the feds. Most of that, of course, is explainable in three words: Fort Dupont Park. And much of the vacant federally controlled land elsewhere in the city is attributable to national parks and monuments, too. But it highlights just how much of the city is completely out of the control of the District government, and in the hands of federal agencies (see Park Service, National) that might not always have local interests in mind.
Here’s a better breakdown:
Two-thirds of the vacant, unimproved land in the District is controlled by the federal government. Less than 15 percent is privately owned and eligible for private development.
So yes, there’s lots of vacant land for the city to grow. But first we’ll have to persuade the feds to turn it over to us—and persuade ourselves that we actually want to build there.
Images from District, Measured