Washington region skyline slowly changing

Scaffolding covers a fourth of the Washington Monument on Wednesday, March 13. (WTOP/Kristi King)

WASHINGTON – It’s no secret the D.C. region’s skyline is somewhat shorter than other metropolitan areas, especially those on the East Coast.

Inside the District, buildings are regulated by federal law. The Heights of Building Act of 1910 stipulated that commercial and residential structures be no higher than the street width plus 20 feet tall. Exceptions are sometimes made for decorative purposes.

Outside Washington, each jurisdiction mandates its own height restrictions based on various factors – safety, air traffic and general aesthetics.

“There is probably some sort of cultural hesitancy for taller buildings in the region,” says Dan Malouff, transportation planner for the Arlington County Department of Transportation and blogger for Greater Greater Washington and BeyondDC.

“For the past couple of decades, the tallest office buildings have been in Rosslyn, and they have been between [200] and 400 feet tall.”

This is starting to change. Rosslyn will be getting a new tallest building, 1812 North Moore, which is already under construction.

“Soaring at 390 feet, [it] will be the tallest office building in Metropolitan Washington, D.C.,” the website boasts. It will include “stunning views” of the National Mall, convenience to Metro and it will be LEED energy-efficient.

Farther into Northern Virginia, a proposed skyscraper in Tysons Corner will be the region’s tallest building at 435 feet. It will be an addition to the existing SAIC building, which was purchased by The Meridian Group for $85 million over the summer.

Other projects throughout the region are also in the works, including the proposed second phase of North Bethesda Market.

In Rosslyn, all buildings will remain under 400 feet because of flight patterns into Reagan National Airport. Areas outside of the flight pattern are not constrained by the same height restrictions, but have historically been built closer to the ground.

As areas surrounding D.C. look up, the District continues to struggle with height regulations. The National Capital Planning Commission recently completed a study recommending a change of rules for penthouses, which currently can only be used as elevator shafts or mechanical rooms. The recommendation includes allowing humans to inhabit those spaces.

WTOP took a look throughout the region and came up with a list of the five tallest buildings in D.C., Maryland and Virginia. Click on the gallery to see which structures made the cut.

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