Housing Complex

The Slight Act

D.C.’s hopes for some degree of authority over its own building heights were all but dashed last week when the National Capital Planning Commission voted not to recommend that Congress make any major changes to the Height Act. Supporters of the 1910 law cheered the decision as an affirmation that D.C.’s skyline should retain a “human scale.” Just how human? Well, take a look at how D.C.’s tallest existing building—excluding monuments—and its tallest allowable building on a major commercial corridor stack up against the high-rises of some veritable American metropolises.

Tallest currently allowed on D.C. commercial streets: 130 feet (plus penthouses and spires)

ILOakbrook Terrace Tower: 418 feet

Oakbrook Terrace, Ill. Population: 2,155

TXSapphire I: 403 feet

South Padre Island, Texas. Population: 2,896

SCPrysmian Copper Wire Tower: 373 feet

Abbeville, S.C. Population: 5,179

MS-biloxiBeau Rivage Casino Hotel: 346 feet

Biloxi, Miss. Population: 44,578

PA333 Market Street: 341 feet

Harrisburg, Pa. Population: 49,279

DCBasilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception: 329 feet

D.C. Population: 632,323

MS-tunicaGold Strike Casino Hotel: 317 feet

Tunica, Miss. Population: 996




  • Skeptic

    Those are some really ugly buildings.

  • tntdc

    Paris, France- 76 feet (except for the Tour Montparnasse). Population 2.2 million. Ditto most historic European cities.

    Should DC be just another Baltimore or Cleveland instead?

  • Skeptic
  • ACyclistInTheSuburbs

    "Paris, France- 76 feet (except for the Tour Montparnasse). Population 2.2 million"

    a city built of virtually all 6 story buildings. No detached SFHs, no 2 story townhouses.

    making DC like Paris would be a much more radical change than adding a few stories downtown.

  • double income no money

    Other cities have taller buildings -- what an insight!!!!!

  • Chris hauser

    Guess the lobbying failed, though I think there's a loophole somewhere.

  • mne

    This is a good thing Aaron Wiener. I might feel different if I advertised my real estate in the WCP but Washington is about low buildings and that makes it unique.

  • Ralph

    Jonetta Barras has a terrific piece in Sunday's Washington Post. Washington's skyline is unique, as anyone who stands up on the hillside at Arlington Cemetery and other viewpoints will attest. There is no popular will for changing it, as the near unanimity of witnesses and the DC council action showed -- how's that for 'home rule'? Leave the Height Act alone.

  • Build Taller

    I ask opponents of relaxing the Height Act how having 17-story buildings on the District side of Friendship Heights directly across the street from 17-story buildings on the Maryland side of Friendship Heights will compromise views of the memorials, monunments or other historic sites one bit?

    There are already 400-foot radio towers in Tenley and Nebraska Avenue and these haven't impacted any of the important views in DC but having a 170-foot building in Van Ness or along Georgia Avenue, seven miles from the Capitol and Washington Monument will?

    We've invested tens of billions of dollars in metro-rail. We should have modestly taller buildings within walking distance of some of the outer stations in the District.

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