Some building heights and setbacks, 11/6/2018

Posted on November 6, 2018

While I work on a write up of a recent meeting between Sunrise assisted living and some Vienna residents, and while we wait for the developers to erect the front face and tall tower of the Chick-fil-A, here are a few heights of tall structures on or near Maple.  These were all measured using Google Earth Pro.

Recall, for your reference, that MAC buildings can be 62′ tall to the top of the parapet walls around the roof, and can sit 20 feet from Maple, or 15′ from any side street (e.g., Nutley).

I’m doing this, by the way, because one of the inane comments from Town Council when they passed 444 Maple West is that we have taller structures currently on Maple Avenue now.   And that’s true.  Two, by my count. And what the Town did not say is that the tall structures we have a) all sit well away from the road and b) are tiny compared to 444 Maple West.

My point being that the Town has decided to change the face of Vienna, but they are still denying that.

The bell tower of Vienna Presbyterian church, 68 feet tall, measured from the ground beside it.  Figured I would lead off with something fairly benign.  The upshot is that the Presbyterian bell tower will exceed the Chick-fil-A bell tower by a good solid 6 feet.  I didn’t measure the setback from Maple, but it’s hundreds of feet — there’s a large parking lot in front of the building.  Versus the Chick-fil-A tower roughly 20′ from Maple.

301 Maple Avenue West, which I believe is the tallest building on Maple:  a little over 70 feet, set back 170′ from the road.  I love this building because whenever I say 301 Maple Avenue West, tallest building on Maple, I always get blank looks.   Nobody even notices it.  So, while it is about eight feet taller than what’s allowed under MAC, with the 170′ setback and bland styling,  it’s inconspicuous.


You may note that I’m not counting the height of the AC equipment on top of the building. That’s because for all these old buildings, they were smart enough to locate it so that it doesn’t show from ground level, like so:

Visually, the building ends at the rooftop.  Doesn’t matter to me, the passer-by, that there’s some equipment hidden on the rooftop.   People with fourth-floor offices in Vienna office buildings might see it from work, but nobody has to “see it from home” so to speak.

But now, people are going to be living on Maple, four stories up.  They don’t want to look at each other’s junky equipment when they look out their windows.  So under MAC zoning, the equipment has to be hidden by parapet walls.  And those walls — particularly when they are simple vertical extensions of the building — add to the visual size of the building, from the street level.  So if this had been a MAC building, it would have been another ten feet tall, with the additional height being the parapet wall required to screen the equipment.

United Bank Building, 39′ tall, 20′ setback from the road.  Here is the only case that I can find of a tall building, on Maple, with the MAC-style setback.  But a) this is under 40′ tall, and, b) more importantly,  it’s small (the entire front face of the building is a little over 60′ long), and c) it’s surrounded by other low-rise buildings set back from the road.  It’s nothing like 444 Maple West (61′ tall at the tallest point, more than 400′ long.)

Tom Yum Thai, 45′ tall, 90′ setback.  This is a fairly large office building by Vienna standards.  I don’t think anyone would call this a particularly attractive building, but because of the setback, it does not dominate the landscape.   It’s easy enough to ignore it as you walk or drive by.


How about a few random 60-ish foot tall buildings in this area, since I can’t find an example in the Town of Vienna?  You will note that all of them are five floors, because 60 or so is the height of a normal five-story building.  You’ll have to use Google maps if you want to see where these are located.

In each case, I’ll give the Google Street View of the building to give you the feel of how it would look from ground level, in addition to the Google Earth Pro picture showing the height.

10901 Arrowhead Dr, 62′ tall


2665 Prosperity Ave, 55′ tall.  This is in the vicinity of the Mosaic District.  This one strikes me as a pretty good analog for what we’ll get on Maple, less the retail.  Note the “broken up” facade that is supposed to fool you into thinking of these as separate little buildings — that’s mandatory for the MAC buildings.

Have I missed some particularly tall building on Maple?  Here I’m going to do something that I don’t normally do, which is solicit input from the public.  I don’t think I’ve missed some extraordinarily tall building on Maple, but mistakes can happen.  If there’s a building on Maple that you think might be 62′ tall or taller, or would just like me to measure via Google Earth Pro, enter it in the form below.  I’m also asking for your name, purely to keep down spam entries.  No guarantee I’ll get to it, but I’ll give a good faith effort if somebody thinks I have somehow missed a building on Maple that’s over 62′ tall.

Request Maple Building Height
Request a building on Maple in Vienna that you would like to see added to this page.