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Old 05-14-2012, 02:42 PM
 
Location: McLean, VA
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Since there was some conversation about how building heights restrictions should be lifted, I thought this article was timely.

Quote:
While there are aesthetic arguments against changing the character of the nation’s capital, there is also a widespread opinion among commercial Washington architects that the Height of Buildings Act stifles creativity, forcing their brightest ideas into efficient but boring 130-foot high grey boxes.
If DC were to lift their restrictions first, then would Arlington follow suit in Rosslyn?
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Old 05-14-2012, 03:10 PM
 
Location: The Port City is rising.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Darkseid View Post
Since there was some conversation about how building heights restrictions should be lifted, I thought this article was timely.

If DC were to lift their restrictions first, then would Arlington follow suit in Rosslyn?
Im pretty sure building size in Rosslyn is constrained not so much by height, but by the floor area ratio limit which I think is about 10, and then only for the parcels immediately adjacent to metro entrances. 10 means a building that covers half the lot can be 20 stories high, one third the lot can be 30 stories, etc. I don't think there's much point to raising the height limit (which is?) as long as the FAR limit is 10. And I don't know there will be much appetite to increase the FAR until transit access is much improved. Aside from that, I think it will be market conditions in Arlington that will matter, more than a race to be the same as DC.
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Old 05-14-2012, 05:40 PM
 
Location: Tysons Corner
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Arlington has long stated they would not go above the height of the Monument in order to preserve views of the city (555). They do have a 400' height restriction I believe in place. Now some of the restrictions along the river are due to flight patterns from National, specifically between Rosslyn and Pentagon corridor. I've always thought that atleast in Ballston (away from the city enough that the angles work so that these mysterious virginians who can see the monument can continue to) should have NO height limit. Why institute something as ridiculous as that especially when it can be used to leverage for infrastructure improvements.

If we start getting some of the big boy developers in this region, the ones with 500 to 600 million to throw around, those are the kinds of projects that grouped could create an entire transit system of their own (like the LTR they are proposing). I still believe the ballston to courthouse region could use a circulator light rail which would cost about 300 million. Considering once it would be in place, it could support the type of density a true high rise would bring, and that those highrises would provide not just 1 million per year, but 5-7 million for each building, more than covering operating costs even if it werent connected to WMATA as a whole.

You gotta use the fact that these guys play with hundreds of millions in our advantage and leverage it to create a better city. Just my opinion though.
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Old 05-14-2012, 05:46 PM
 
Location: McLean, VA
448 posts, read 827,033 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tysonsengineer View Post
If we start getting some of the big boy developers in this region, the ones with 500 to 600 million to throw around, those are the kinds of projects that grouped could create an entire transit system of their own (like the LTR they are proposing). I still believe the ballston to courthouse region could use a circulator light rail which would cost about 300 million.
You have any examples around the country of such a project being done that I can read about?
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Old 05-14-2012, 08:54 PM
 
Location: Tysons Corner
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Darkseid View Post
You have any examples around the country of such a project being done that I can read about?
Private-Public cooperative projects are all over the place. The closest being Silver Line technically, its just a matter of ratios. Silver line is having about 1.6 billion funded by private developers out of the total 5 billion cost. Norfolks light rail is being funded approximately 75% by private developers who traded the cost to fund for the cost to build the necessary parking/infrastructure and stations. In return they negotiated to also attain more preferable density.

There are several hundreds of examples of density being a concession in exchange for tax/proffer concessions as well from the lowliest subdivision in the suburbs to the biggest highrise in manhattan that is the name of the game. Everyone wants to be able to build more with less. Its how much you get in return that makes something sprawl vs non-sprawl smart growth. When dealing within single family detached most proffers deal in the order of tens or hundreds of thousands (towards a trail, lane widening, utility upgrades, etc). When it comes to city developments proffer concessions usually come on the order of millions to tens of millions. Sometimes this is an inherent cost when the developer themselves build some of the things that the jurisdiction would otherwise ask money for (because its almost always cheaper to build something themselves if they are a large firm). But technically every time a highrise is built, the roads and sidewalks are all concessions provides to the county. The question becomes, if you let them build taller in this specific area, will they play ball, give out a lot more (transit funding) and want to build taller.

Some developers in this area like JBG and Avalon don't believe they need to build taller yet, some like Cityline and Georgelas tend to think the market could bear higher density through height. Clark and Lerner are in the middle on it, they just dont want to lose their ass making a mistake. I think as it is, theres plenty of land in the region as whole that someone will allow something built on. Whether its Bethesda, Tysons, Arlington, DC, Alexandria, Reston yada yada. Sooooo because they are allowed to build in all of these different places, then technically no its probably not smart to create unlimited height.

If you want the traffic solved and true urbanism though, I would argue that all the jurisdictions should figure out who wants to be the highrise area, and only allow density concessions in that zone.... but that would never happen because last I checked no one wants to send future tax revenue and population over to another jurisdiction.
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Old 05-15-2012, 08:00 AM
 
Location: New-Dentist Colony
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tysonsengineer View Post
Arlington has long stated they would not go above the height of the Monument in order to preserve views of the city (555). They do have a 400' height restriction I believe in place. Now some of the restrictions along the river are due to flight patterns from National, specifically between Rosslyn and Pentagon corridor. I've always thought that atleast in Ballston (away from the city enough that the angles work so that these mysterious virginians who can see the monument can continue to) should have NO height limit. Why institute something as ridiculous as that especially when it can be used to leverage for infrastructure improvements.
You can see the monument quite easily from several places in Cherrydale--among them, heading east on Lee Highway right before you hit Quincy. (In fact, we used to join neighbors on one particular very hilly neighborhood street every 4th of July, to watch the DC fireworks.)

Arlington really screwed a lot of people when it allowed Crystal City to be built, however. All those houses on the east side of Arlington Ridge Road used to have spectacular views, and now they're looking at dumpy apartments that look like tenements in East Berlin. They could have easily built hotels and office buildings that didn't block the views of people on the hill behind them.

I love suburbia, and I want Arlington to keep what suburbia it still has. I would have capped the heights in Ballston a lot lower than they are now, and I would have restricted those tall buildings to a much smaller range from either side of Wilson. Same with Clarendon. But what's done is done. At least we can put a cap on any more of these looming monstrosities. (If your company wants its headquarters in a skyscraper, go build it in Fairfax. Or better yet, go build it in Detroit, Sacramento, or Cleveland--because those cities really need the jobs. Not everyone can live in the DC region, and not every new job should be in the DC region.)

I've lived in Manhattan, and I found it far less livable, attractive, and enjoyable than DC or even the other boroughs, like most of Brooklyn (brownstones instead of skyscrapers). Tall buildings block sunlight, and they destroy and discourage the tree canopy.

If you support promoting walkability, most people would much rather walk through Georgetown than they would the concrete jungle of Ballston.
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Old 05-15-2012, 08:18 AM
 
Location: Tysons Corner
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And yet georgetown is a completely unsustainable region of DC. If it werent for its boutique qualities it wouldn't be able to support itself. While its retail is undeniable, its actual commercial capability is non-existent outside of law firms and smaller design firms.

Cities can't just be pretty urban settings. At the back bone of every city has to be a reason why people live there, otherwise you create a Miami or Tucson where people live simply to live but actually work in completely different regions or not at all. This becomes extremely volatile in downmarkets (see unemployment in both of those two regions).

The reason why arlington is a great place to live is its general economic stability and the counties ability to provide public programs that are desirable. None of these would be possible without the very skyscrapers that you condemn.

If higher density were allowed in the first place instead of spreading a bunch of 15 story buildings for 5 miles, a 10 block true urban region (similar to Charlotte) could have been created with 50 to 60 story buildings providing the exact same final square footage of development, number of jobs, and number of urban residence.

By providing 5 times higher buildings, the area of urbanism is also reduced by 5, therefore the diameter of impact now becomes instead of 5 miles, 1.12 miles (Imagine the volume of a cylinder, you increase the height then you can decrease the diameter and achieve the same volume, ie total units). Exact same amount of development except nearly 5 times smaller a footprint. This way LESS suburbia and rural lands are impacted. People who don't want to live in the urban area can still stay outside of it, those who do want to live in it can still do so as well. Best of all because it is now decreased from 5 miles to 1 mile approximately, it becomes walkable FOR BOTH detached lower density residents and the people who live in the urban core. Proper planning can also attend to issues of shadow effect by providing the public and common spaces, and municipal buildings within the shadow zone of the urban region. The problem with the 20th century city model is it just wasnt well thought out, that doesnt mean that ALL cities in the future will have the same problems. Is this utopic? Yea, but it doesnt mean its not true. Cities have always improved because they are a work in progress.

Over time will the urban core have a tendency of reaching further? Yea, but to stop the hands of time is not the appropriate way to address this issue. Tightening our city circles slows that process a lot more than the model we have now of NIMBY restriction which creates instability and finally collapse and then vulture real estate land grabs.

I will continue to try to convince people that if you provide proper guidance on WHERE the density should go, you can better preserve the areas where you DONT WANT the density to go.

Last edited by tysonsengineer; 05-15-2012 at 08:34 AM..
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Old 05-15-2012, 08:31 AM
 
Location: New-Dentist Colony
5,754 posts, read 10,122,380 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tysonsengineer View Post
And yet georgetown is a completely unsustainable region of DC. If it werent for its boutique qualities it wouldn't be able to support itself. While its retail is undeniable, its actual commercial capability is non-existent outside of law firms and smaller design firms.
So by "unsustainable," you don't mean that it's unsustainable in terms of a nice place to live--just that large businesses can't survive there. What does that matter? They DC down the road and Rosslyn across the bridge. And Tysons just up the river. We have no large employers near our neighborhood--and we like it that way! I'm sure that the people in suburban NW DC or the quiet parts of Georgetown feel the same way.

Quote:
Originally Posted by tysonsengineer View Post
Cities can't just be pretty urban settings. At the back bone of every city has to be a reason why people live there, otherwise you create a Miami or Tucson where people live simply to live but actually work in completely different regions or not at all. This becomes extremely volatile in downmarkets (see unemployment in both of those two regions).
Do you really think Georgetown (or Old Town or suburban Arlington away from the Metro) is in danger of becoming like Miami? People clearly move to all those areas for the purpose of working in DC or Tysons or one of the other employment centers. They have existed for decades and will continue to be desirable whether or not taller buildings are built near the Metro.

Quote:
Originally Posted by tysonsengineer View Post
The reason why arlington is a great place to live is its general economic stability and the counties ability to provide public programs that are desirable. None of these would be possible without the very skyscrapers that you condemn.
We live in Arlington, and we don't use any of the county's public programs. In fact, I wish they would dispense with most of them and focus on basic services--basic park maintenance, enforcement of leash laws, loitering/panhandling laws, public drunkenness laws, and noise ordinances, more stop signs, etc.

Quote:
Originally Posted by tysonsengineer View Post
...I will continue to try to convince people that if you provide proper guidance on WHERE the density should go, you can better preserve the areas where you DONT WANT the density to go.
But why does density need to go here at all? It's not like we have no jobs in the region. We have what economists consider full employment. Increasing density will only stress the infrastructure we have, by making the subways, busses, roads, and schools more crowded than they are already.

Clearly, your line of work means you have a vested interest in seeing more and denser development. But that interest does not align with that of most other people who live in the region. (In fact, I would argue that such development only benefits those who don't live and work here already.)
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Old 05-15-2012, 08:44 AM
 
Location: Tysons Corner
2,772 posts, read 4,092,971 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Carlingtonian View Post
So by "unsustainable," you don't mean that it's unsustainable in terms of a nice place to live--just that large businesses can't survive there. What does that matter? They DC down the road and Rosslyn across the bridge. And Tysons just up the river. We have no large employers near our neighborhood--and we like it that way! I'm sure that the people in suburban NW DC or the quiet parts of Georgetown feel the same way.



Do you really think Georgetown (or Old Town or suburban Arlington away from the Metro) is in danger of becoming like Miami? People clearly move to all those areas for the purpose of working in DC or Tysons or one of the other employment centers. They have existed for decades and will continue to be desirable whether or not taller buildings are built near the Metro.



We live in Arlington, and we don't use any of the county's public programs. In fact, I wish they would dispense with most of them and focus on basic services--basic park maintenance, enforcement of leash laws, loitering/panhandling laws, public drunkenness laws, and noise ordinances, more stop signs, etc.



But why does density need to go here at all? It's not like we have no jobs in the region. We have what economists consider full employment. Increasing density will only stress the infrastructure we have, by making the subways, busses, roads, and schools more crowded than they are already.
Sigh (Please take the following not as a harsh tone, I just get fired up sometimes)

You are looking at the picture at one corner of the image. You are pushing down a bubble on one side, what do you believe happens? The bubble pops up on another area. Which is fine, in some areas it makes sense to tell people to go build elsewhere. Georgetown is a perfect example, I am not arguing to build high rises in georgetown.

I am also not arguing to build highrises in your neighborhood. Again this has nothing to do with ANY land that has a house on it. NONE, houses and suburbia are not in danger when you build properly!

I am saying, where you have those 15 story buildings, the reason why people are trying to build and creep onto your suburbia is BECAUSE you are restricting them to build higher where those 15 story buildings are. Arlington is on prime commercial land. While your house pays 4000 dollars in tax a year, those high rises pay 2 to 5 million dollars per year.

And while you think you dont need the public services of the county, you DO need the education system they provide, and that is more than half of the county budget. You need the infrastructure payments which make up 25% of the budget, You NEED the police department they provide and that is 15% of the budget. YOU NEED the fire department and hospitals they provide and that is the majority of the rest. The smaller programs, those are bells and whistles, discretionary, barely a blip barely even worth discussing. Fine cut them, but your idea of basic programs are the basic programs, within the 1% of the budget that is for visible public programs. 99% of the stuff you HAVE to keep, it is what keeps a region functioning.

The high rises in Rosslyn/Courthouse/Clarendon/Ballston alone pay more towards the county than the rest of the county combined. The reason why schools can be upgraded and built isnt because of the houses and townhouses in Arlington, it is because of those highrises and it is so on 3 to 4 orders of magnitude greater than the detached residents.

I can show you the tax records to prove that, they are all very transparent and online.

The more you hold your finger on the bubble that is the central corridor, forcing it to stay less dense, the more you are actually hurting yourself! You are ensuring that eventually your area will be converted to the very thing you are fighting. I say this because I am on your side about this. I DONT want to see uncontrolled urban sprawl, I dont want to see housing areas destroyed when there are perfectly acceptable areas of existing density that could be made more dense. Urbanism doesnt say to tear down a house to put up a highrise, it says to tear down the 10 story highrise to put in a 50 story highrise.


Also please note, my line of work has nothing to do with this. I work on international projects ONLY for the federal government (I havent done domestic work in 5 years). My only reasoning for my points is to help people because I have the same goal as you. Honestly, listen to me, I am not lying about this, I have the same goals as you. I do not want the parts of arlington that have houses and townhouses effected 1 bit. I want those houses to remain until the day I die, hopefully 60+ years from now. This is about the urban portion. Not the suburban portion. I know of the sins of prior city planners. Those people had some right ideas, but they traded one form of sprawl for another. Sprawl in ALL forms is bad.

Last edited by tysonsengineer; 05-15-2012 at 08:56 AM..
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Old 05-15-2012, 09:03 AM
 
Location: New-Dentist Colony
5,754 posts, read 10,122,380 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tysonsengineer View Post
Sigh (Please take the following not as a harsh tone, I just get fired up sometimes).
That was positively restrained for you, TE!

Quote:
Originally Posted by tysonsengineer View Post
You are looking at the picture at one corner of the image. You are pushing down a bubble on one side, what do you believe happens? The bubble pops up on another area.
No, I get that. And I'm all for it. Push the bubble down here--and let it rise up in another US city, rather than just elswhere in DC. Let it be known from coast to coast: We have enough people here. Go somewhere else. Employers, bring your jobs somewhere else. The whole country can't just move here.

Quote:
Originally Posted by tysonsengineer View Post
Which is fine, in some areas it makes sense to tell people to go build elsewhere. Georgetown is a perfect example, I am not arguing to build high rises in georgetown.

I am also not arguing to build highrises in your neighborhood. Again this has nothing to do with ANY land that has a house on it. NONE, houses and suburbia are not in danger when you build properly!
Glad to hear you say that--but the density ends up creeping outward. If you look at historic aerial photos, the officey part of Ballston used to end well east of Glebe. There were houses on Glebe. Now they're gone. They tore down those houses and the ones that used to be behind Wakefield, near the dry cleaner's. (There was still one bungalow left as of a few months ago.) Now the west side of Glebe has some really tall buildings, and I don't believe for a second that developers aren't looking at that area between Glebe and George Mason Drive with dollar signs in their eyes.

Another example: In Ballston, betwee Fairfax Drive and Washington Blvd. was once all SFHs. Now there are just a handful left. Did they all become skyscrapers? No. But the construction of those tall buildings in Ballston drove up the land values for the beautiful old farmhouses nearby--which were leveled and turned into townhouses and apartments. Meanwhile, the remaining houses (north of Wash Blvd) have been increasingly replaced with McMansions. So despite the claim of a boundary for density, it has consistently spread out into suburban areas.

Quote:
Originally Posted by tysonsengineer View Post
I am saying, where you have those 15 story buildings, the reason why people are trying to build and creep onto your suburbia is BECAUSE you are restricting them to build higher where those 15 story buildings are. Arlington is on prime commercial land. While your house pays 4000 dollars in tax a year, those high rises pay 2 to 5 million dollars per year.
I'd like to restrict them from building anything else in Arlington at all. Tysons can have it! What I would really like is if the entire MWCOG told developers "Go elsewhere," and we put a moratorium on all new construction. Again--we have enough people here! Meanwhile, the cities of the Rust Belt are dying. This country is going to look like Russia in 50 years--two or three major cities with all the wealth and all the jobs, and whole bunch of dead, impoverished hellholes in between.

(And I wish our RE taxes were only $4K. Add about 50% to that number.)

Quote:
Originally Posted by tysonsengineer View Post
And while you think you dont need the public services of the county, you DO need the education system they provide, and that is more than half of the county budget. You need the infrastructure payments which make up 25% of the budget, You NEED the police department they provide and that is 15% of the budget. YOU NEED the fire department and hospitals they provide and that is the majority of the rest.
Absolutely. And guess what: Suburban areas have those things too. Even Arlington was basically suburban till the '60s, and from what I hear, the basic services were BETTER then. From what I can tell, Fairfax County has better quality-of-life law enforcement than does Arlington. I'd bet that Loudoun County does too.

Quote:
Originally Posted by tysonsengineer View Post
The high rises in Rosslyn/Courthouse/Clarendon/Ballston alone pay more towards the county than the rest of the county combined. The reason why schools can be upgraded and built isnt because of the houses and townhouses in Arlington, it is because of those highrises and it is so on 3 to 4 orders of magnitude greater than the detached residents.
That's another topic, but many of us are convinced that Arlington County wastes the tax dollars on consultants, highly paid senior employees, promotion of the County to outside interests, etc.

Quote:
Originally Posted by tysonsengineer View Post
Also please note, my line of work has nothing to do with this. I work on international projects ONLY for the federal government. I do not do domestic work. My only reasoning for my points is to help people because I have the same goal as you. Honestly, listen to me, I am not lying about this, I have the same goals as you. I do not want the parts of arlington that have houses and townhouses effected 1 bit. I want those houses to remain until the day I die, hopefully 60+ years from now. This is about the urban portion. Not the suburban portion.
Fair enough. But I think density is like a cancer; it inexorably creeps outward. At least, that's what it has done everywhere in the DC region so far where it hasn't been banned--Arlington, Silver Spring, etc.

Last edited by Carlingtonian; 05-15-2012 at 09:11 AM..
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