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While reading about the new Safeway-anchored residential development just approved in Wheaton, all I could think was: Why can’t we get these kinds of buildings in the District? It’s a 17-story, 486-unit, 195-foot-tall apartment complex that will add density and vibrance to the suburb’s delightfully diverse and quirky town center. But it won’t look like the superblocks that proliferate within the D.C. diamond, which are the way they are because developers must ask their architects to pack as much square footage under the 130-foot height limit as possible to make the deal work financially. Since Wheaton is not bound by such restrictions, this development can achieve a kind of light, airy quality with towers on each corner and quite a bit of open space in the middle of the block. That also creates higher-quality living spaces for apartment dwellers, many more of whom will be able to have natural light.
I’m thinking about this stuff because, against my better instincts, I’ll be taking a crack at the Height Act debate in next week’s issue. The New York Times says we’re talking about it, so might as well!