The District's planning office and the Pennsylvania Avenue Development Corporation last week proposed raising the height limitations along Pennsylvania Avenue between the Treasury Department and the FBI Building from 130 feet to 160 feet - a change that would allow buildings of 15 to 16 stories instead of 12 to 13 stories - as part of plans for revamping the historic avenue.
The recommendation, which had been expected, came as part of a package of city recommendations to the zoning commission designed to make the old downtown area of Washington more attractive to development. Hearings on the proposals are expected early next year.
The package also contained proposals to make it economically more feasible to build housing in commercial areas of the old downtown - to encourage more mixed use development - and to allow builders to develop land more intensively if they provide amenities such as underground passages connecting with Metro."These things might give the edge to downtown in encouraging people to construct there," said Kirk White of the Municipal Planning Office.
The change in the height limitation would apply only to buildings that front on the north side of Pennsylvania Avenue, and would simply change the zoning regulations to conform with the law. A 1910 act of Congress which set height limitation for the city allowed for 160-foot buildings on the avenue, but zoning regulations have kept the height limit there at 130 feet. The limit for the rest of the city is 130 feet.
The city has also proposed raising the height limitation for a larger area in the old downtown from between 15th Street and 6th Street and Pennsylvania and Massachusetts Avenues to 160 feet. To do so anywhere except along Pennsylvania Avenue, where it is already allowed by law, requires Congressional approval.
White said the city expects a favorable response to the proposals to the zoning commission.During the next few months city planning officials will be conducting briefings for downtown business groups and civic groups, he said.