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Because of the Current Newspapers’ obstinate refusal to put their content online, I missed this April 20th report regarding something Mayor Vince Gray told a group of entrepreneurs at the end of March:
Mayor Vincent Gray plans to explore the idea of eliminating or moderating the limitation on building heights in parts of wards 7 and 8. The goal would be to entice companies needing large spaces to locate in the District, he told a group of entrepreneurs recently.
After a March 29 meeting with the D.C. chapter of the Indus Entrepreneurs, Gray said the purpose of the citywide height limitation “would not be violated” by the change, because it “would not affect the monuments on the Mall.” He said he would ask the attorney general to look into the issue.
The Current followed up with Kate Carr, the group’s co-chair and president of Cardinal Bank in D.C. and Maryland:
“In order to attract major banking and financial companies to the District, we discussed the fact that the height restriction limits the ability for any large governmental or nongovernmental organization to be headquartered here,” Carr said in an interview. “We felt that increasing the density in an area of the city that needs true development and stimulation—wards 7 and 8—would incentivize development,” Carr said.
As Gray should know, the Height Act doesn’t just apply to areas where tall buildings might affect monumental views—it’s just as strong east of the river as it is downtown. But he may be correct that Congress could be more willing to consider legislation that would boost height limits east of the river, where most of them have probably never set foot anyway. If, as Carr later suggests, that were combined with a targeted reduction in the corporate tax rate, areas like Poplar Point could be hugely attractive. And ironically, the mental and physical divide created by the Anacostia could work to ward 7 and 8’s advantage, for once.