October 2008

NCPC Monthly E-Newsletter
Providing you with current news and other information of interest.

NCPC Weighs in on Washington’s Skyline

NCPC’s Executive Director Marcel Acosta appeared September 24 in, “How Tall to Build?” an expert panel discussion organized by the National Building Museum to explore the 1910 Height of Buildings Act.

“This is a topic of national significance,” Mr. Acosta stated in his opening remarks. “And in a world of cookie cutter cities, it is important to keep the things that are special about DC, including its skyline.”

The event was part of the Museum’s “D.C. Builds” lecture series, which celebrates Washington through discussions of design, planning, and development issues in the National Capital Region. Other panelists included Christopher Leinberger, visiting fellow at the Brookings Institution, Thomas Luebke, secretary of the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts, and Whayne Quin, an attorney for Holland & Knight, LLP. Mary Fitch, executive director of the Washington chapter of the American Institute of Architects moderated the discussion.

The Height Act establishes heights for buildings in the District—generally between 90 and 130 feet—based upon the width of the streets. Although fire safety was the primary reason for limiting heights at the turn of the last century, the Act has nonetheless shaped the urban form of the city and given it a distinct iconic identity.

“I think it’s very important to recognize the real uniqueness of Washington’s physical character, certainly compared to any other American city,” said Thomas Luebke, secretary of the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts (CFA). The city’s skyline is “a national symbol.”

The panel was in agreement on a number of issues throughout the discussion, including the aesthetic value of the city’s horizontal skyline, the need for denser development, and the importance of having a regional perspective. Panelists agreed that the Height Act is in part responsible for the continuous fabric of the downtown area and that it has helped sparked the resurgence of several neighborhoods, including NOMA and South Capitol Street. You can read more about the discussion on Washington’s skyline in the most recent issue of NCPC’s Quarterly newsletter.

2008 Capitals Alliance Conference Results in Green Declaration

Delegates from 15 national capitals around the world closed out the week-long conference Capitals Alliance 2008: Greening the World’s Capital Cities with a pledge to help create a more sustainable planet. Hosted by the National Capital Planning Commission the week of September 14-19, the event marked the sixth gathering of representatives of the world’s national capitals.

In signing the declaration, delegates agreed to help promote green building design, energy efficient practices, low impact development techniques, protection of open space, and the development of mass transit systems that reduce reliance on the automobile.

“Today, cities face a significant challenge to develop and promote green and sustainable policies that will be viable now and in the future,” said NCPC Executive Director Marcel Acosta.  “The declaration demonstrates our commitment to support principles of sustainability as central to the development of our capital cities.”

Participating capitals included Abu Dhabi, Bogotá, Brasilia, Canberra, Copenhagen, Helsinki, Islamabad, Moscow, Oslo, Ottawa, Paris, Stockholm, Tshwane, Vienna, and Washington, D.C. The next gathering of the Alliance is tentatively slated to be held in Brasilia in 2010.

Public Comment Concludes on National Capital Framework Plan

Public comment for the National Capital Framework Plan closed on Friday, October 10, following a 90-day review period.  NCPC and the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts—partnering agencies on the plan—conducted numerous public outreach efforts with interested parties, including three informational meetings during July and September. In addition, staff presented to more than ten civic groups during the three-month timeframe. The plan is available on NCPC’s website and by mail. Interested parties can also view it in person at NCPC or CFA.  Staff members are currently preparing the plan for final Commission review and approval, which is scheduled for January 2009.

Commission Reviews and Approves Action Items at October Meeting

At its October 2 meeting NCPC approved a submission for preliminary and final site development plans for perimeter security at Union Station. Submitted by the Federal Railroad Administration, AMTRAK, and the Union Station Redevelopment Corporation, the plans include a line of bollards and other security elements around the south, east, and west sides of the portico at the front of Union Station. Submission of the plan followed a security assessment that analyzed threats, risks, and impacts to the public and to the historic building.

The Commission also approved a site for the Memorial to Victims of Ukrainian Manmade Famine of 1932-1933 conditioned upon mitigation required in the Executive Director’s Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) for the site selection. Reservation 78, a 3,100 square feet parcel of federally owned land, is located west of Union Station at the intersection of North Capitol Street, Massachusetts Avenue, and F Street in Northwest Washington, DC near the National Postal Museum. This site was one of two submitted by the National Park Service on behalf of the Government of Ukraine.

The Commission adopted the Strategic Plan for the National Capital Planning Commission for Fiscal Years 2009-2014. The final plan reflects comments received during a 45-day public comment period, as well as consultation with Congress and the Office of Management and Budget. For more detailed information on October Commission items, visit the Current Actions page on the NCPC website.

November Commission Meeting

The Commission’s next public meeting will take place on Thursday, November 6, 2008 beginning at 12:30 p.m. at 401 9th Street, NW, Suite 500 North, in Washington, D.C. The meeting is open to the public and no reservations are necessary to attend. The Tentative Agenda will be available on NCPC’s website on Monday, October 20.

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NCPC 2008.