In 1991, the District of Columbia Zoning Commission enacted the Downtown Development District (DD) Regulations as part of the District’s Zoning Regulations. The goal of the DD Regulations was to transform the District’s “old downtown”—the dilapidated area between the White House and the Capitol Building—into a 24/7 living downtown. But unlike traditional zoning, the DD Regulations did not simply mandate the development of residential, retail, and arts, and the restoration of historic properties. Rather, they provided developers with tools to effectuate private sector transactions (in lieu of traditional regulatory proceedings before the Zoning Commission or the BZA) to allocate the zoning requirements among development sites in a market efficient manner.
Transferable development rights (TDRs) was one of the principal techniques employed by the DD Regulations. The DD Regulations enacted one of the most comprehensive systems in the United States for the transfer of development density among sites. The private sector slowly embraced the TDR system: we handled the first TDR transfer in Washington, DC in 1991, involving the transfer of some 140,000 TDRs from historic St. Patrick’s Church on 10th Street to the new International Finance Corporation headquarters site on Pennsylvania Avenue. Since that time, we have handled many of the scores of TDR transactions that have moved TDRs from preferred uses (such as historic renovations, residential, retail, etc.) to office sites.
Combined Lot Development (CLD) was the other key tool created by the DD Regulations to allow the private market to deal with the mandate to develop preferred uses. With CLDs, multiple non-contiguous sites could be joined for purposes of satisfying the zoning requirements to provide specified uses—in particular, residential, and arts. So long as the sites collectively satisfied the use requirements of the DD Regulations, the uses could be allocated among the sites by private contract. CLD transactions have typically involved the conjoining of two sites, and allocating the residential requirement to one of the sites for development of apartments or condos, and allocating the commercial density to the other site for development of an office building. We have handled many of the CLD deals that have facilitated the development of the new apartment and office towers that have transformed the old downtown.
Even before the DD Regulations, single lots of record were used to transfer density, uses and even height between sites—though this technique was (and remains) limited to contiguous sites. We have structured and negotiated a wide variety of creative single lot transactions for many major development projects, including 1900 K Street, 1999 K Street, the Westin Grand Hotel, and the JW Marriott Hotel.
We also handle administrative procedures with many of Washington, DC’s agencies that are involved in the development process. These procedures include subdivisions, creation of assessment and taxation lots, alley closing proceedings before the Washington, DC’s City Council, stormwater management covenants, window covenants, and other administrative requirements related to commercial development projects.