The District of Columbia's historic landmarks board voted yesterday to approve a planned high-rise office building adjoining the George Washington University campus, apparently ending five years of uncertainty over the preservation of an adjacent group of Victorian structures known as Red Lion Row.

The board voted its approval, 4 to 3, after the university -- which will erect the $40-million commercial building as an investment -- agreed to lower the 11-story structure's overall height by 17 feet and to eliminate a mirrored glass facade that was protested by neighbors and historic preservationists.

Red Lion Row, located on the south side of I Street and facing Pennsylvania Avenue west of 20th Street NW, will be preserved and refurbished as part of the overall project. The new office building will be located behind the old buildings, in the same manner as the New Executive Office Building was erected behind refurbished Federal-era buildings on Lafayette Square across from the White House.

The same architect, John Carl Warnecke, is the designer of both projects.

The fate of Red Lion Row has been uncertain since 1977, when the owner of several of its buildings sought to demolish them. The structures have stood since then as various plans for the site have been debated. The university finally proposed incorporating them into an overall development that would include the high-rise.

Despite objections to the large building's size and design -- opposition spearheaded by the Foggy Bottom-West End Advisory Neighboghood Commission -- the project was approved in April by the D.C. Zoning Commission. That left action by the D.C. Joint Committee on Landmarks, as the board is officially known, as the only major obstacle.