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Will DC Finally Grow Up? the District at its Height

At 169 meters, the Washington Monument is by far the tallest structure in the District of Columbia. It is the first thing visitors see driving north on I-395 into Washington and it's clearly visible from almost anywhere in the city. It is a symbol and a landmark of our capital city. It dominates our horizon.

Passed in 1910, the Height of Buildings Act created a limit of 130 feet on all buildings in the District.  Allegedly the law was created to reinforce Thomas Jefferson's vision of the nation's capital as "an American Paris," with low slung buildings.


Ever-present construction frames the Capitol Dome.



The monument dominates the downtown DC skyline and remains lit as offices close up for the evening.

The specific laws are dense, but the fact remains that no building in DC is anywhere near as tall as the Washington Monument, and most are dwarfed even by the Capitol Dome. Endless blocks of rowhouses and low lying art deco apartments line the narrow streets and give Washington its distinct character. The building height restriction has shaped the layout of this city and gives DC a very unique and low profile.

As housing costs continue to soar and rent becomes more and more impossible for average citizens to meet, the height restriction becomes increasingly contested. The question remains: Has the time come to open the door for upward growth in Washington?



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