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Lateral Movements TO A WASHINGTON DEVELOPER IT'S not the cranes and construction crews but the weed-covered and trash-strewn vacant spaces and the hastily paved parking lots that herald the buildings--and fortunes--to come. Though they appear neglected, these plots are in transition, the objects of intense speculation by investors and real estate moguls who are constantly looking for new ways to assemble large packages of land to keep the city's 10-year building boom moving in new directions.
Washington's vigorous office-building market continues to move eastward from the central business district, but it's also spreading north to fresh areas near Union Station and south to fill the vacant spaces left from Pennsylvania Avenue's successful reconstruction. These are the directions that mainstream developing is taking, but the long-term future in office development is along South Capitol Street. And although they are often talked about, most developers say it will be years before steps are taken to realize commercial possibilities in Anacostia and Shaw. Pockets of development are visible in the two areas, but an invasion by new 11-story buildings is another thing.
Downtown Washington, though still dotted with cranes and beset by cement trucks, is nearly finished. The city's eastward expansion to Franklin Park is assured. "In Washington expansion moves laterally. It moves with amazing quickness," says John Kyle of Vector Realty, who has prospered from his land-finding talents.
IN THE CITY LAND IS SCARCE, RESTRICTIONS are numerous, and the municipal height limitation on buildings relentlessly pushes new development outward from the central core. But height isn't the only factor that sets the development situation apart: Washington differs from every other city in the United States because it contains the federal establishment, lacks heavy industry, and has a unique population mix.
In all likelihood Washington will never have skyscrapers, and this simple and profound fact will continue to make its downtown business district spread sideways. But the height restriction has less obvious effects as well. Numerous buildings of similar size create a scarcity of views. Thus today's market is views. Granite lobby walls, high-tech elevators, and acres of brass are in demand; a …