Building Heights: Taller Can Be Better
The Washington region has folks who commute to DC from as far as West Virginia. Their daily journey illustrates a variety of serious problems we say we care about: affordable housing, suburban sprawl, oil consumption, high emissions, and traffic. When a commercial landowner seeks to add significant housing to a single-use site, they’re offering an opportunity to help solve all those problems.
As the Chevy Chase Lake Sector Plan has moved from the Planning Board to the Council, we’ve heard questions about the recommended 150 foot height limit for one of the buildings in the plan area. Some community members have expressed concern that this height limit is excessive, and that the building should be several stories shorter, even though it would be immediately adjacent to the future Purple Line station and to an existing 150 foot tall building. Neither building would abut a residential neighborhood.
We take community concerns very seriously and have made significant changes to our redevelopment plans in response to feedback. But we also believe that this building height is appropriate in the larger context of our design, for several reasons:
- The additional height creates the opportunity for more open space in the project
- The additional units available in a taller building are necessary to offset the high cost of underground parking, which is essential to creating a walkable, pedestrian friendly environment
- As this article points out, a slightly taller building can be more elegantly designed, and ultimately more aesthetically pleasing, than a shorter, blockier building
- The visual impact from the street of an additional 2-3 stories is minimal
The Council hasn’t yet made a final decision on the Sector Plan, so we don’t know what the height limits will be. But rather than focus primarily on the height of one building, we hope to have constructive conversations about the environmental and community benefits to be gained from the redevelopment of an old, asphalt-heavy strip center into a lively, beautiful and transit-oriented community.
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