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Tension Between District, Feds Might Define Height Act Debate

Studies focused on 15 sites around the city, including the central business district, Friendship Heights, NoMa and Buzzard Point.

In the regional office market, D.C. has to compete with locations such as Arlington and Alexandria, and other locations with no height limits that can offer business tenants a greater range of rents and amenities.

“Often, one of the predominant features of Washington office buildings is their generally low ceilings, because everyone wants to get as much, you know, square footage as they can into the building under the height limit,” she said. “That means ... they might be less attractive spaces than if that limit wasn’t there.”

By contrast, the NCPC’s draft recommendation finds “no specific federal interest in raising heights to meet future federal space needs” and points out that the Office of Management and Budget predicts a “flatline” in demand for federal agency office space.

When asked how these two might be melded in a final report, Bryant said: “We’ll have to wait and see. We haven’t seen any detailed studies of that. They’ve done some high-level, top-line kinds of studies trying to project developable land and generally speaking trying to project when that might be under serious pressure. But we don’t have sufficient details to be able to discuss that.”

Bryant said the NCPC “pointed out in the report that those are the kinds of data that we really need in order to have a more constructive and solid dialogue with the city on real estate development.”

“We have not weighed in on District issues, nor would the District want us to weigh in on their issues at this point. So, I think it’s important that the federal government give Mayor Gray and his administration space to come up with the data and such that we can factor in,” he said.

Tregoning said that “unlike some other actions that the commission takes, the District doesn’t feel like it’s bound by the commission report.”

The NCPC will hold a special commission meeting on the Height Master Plan on Oct. 2.

NCPC Commissioner Robert E. Miller, who was appointed by Gray in 2011, said Thursday that he hopes the commission’s work, plus District interests and some of the public input they had received, can all be combined.

“I think it’s stronger if it is a joint report,” he said.

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