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NoMa is going to get the large park it needs

A two-acre plot of land next to the Metropolitan Branch Trail will one day be NoMa's largest park. That's great news for an area that plans to add another 7,000 residential units and numerous new shops and amenities over the next few years.


The plot NoMa bought from Pepco along the MBT. Photo by the author.

The NoMa Parks Foundation bought the land between the MBT and Harry Thomas Way, just before the new year. There's a Pepco substation that will remain at the southern end of the plot adjacent to New York Avenue.

The Foundation is temporarily calling the land the NoMa Green.


The plot. The straight line that runs diagonally through the right half of the picture is the MBT. Image from NoMa BID.

"People want an area for informal recreation and relaxation," says Robin-Eve Jasper, president of the NoMa Business Improvement District (BID), which includes the parks foundation. "Something beautiful, something that really integrates with the Metropolitan Branch Trail."

The two-acre space is roughly comparable to Folger Park in Capitol Hill and slightly smaller than the 2.75-acre Canal Park in Navy Yard.

Designs for the space will take time. NoMa plans to hire a designer from among those who have "done the best work for these kinds of parks" and then hold a community design forum for the space before finalising any plans, says Jasper. This is unlikely to begin for at least three months, she adds.

Based on the speed of the underpass projects in NoMa, the first of which on M St NE was initially targeted for installation last fall, suggests a summer start for the NoMa Green design process.

NoMa has not finalised the design budget for the park since spending $14 million to buy the land from Pepco.

Connectivity will be part of the new park

The MBT will be the primary access route to the NoMa Green, says Jasper. Some of the improvements outlined in the BID's MBT Safety and Access Study, including a Q Street connection, will likely be included in the project, she continues.

The Q Street connection involves extending the street from its current terminus Harry Thomas Way across the green to the MBT.


The Q St connection. Image from NoMa's MBT Safety and Access Study.

Long-term NoMa envisions activating the underpass at New York Ave like what is planned for the L Street and M Street underpasses and connecting the trail to Union Market and eventually Ivy City.


An idea for a softened curve in the MBT at R Street. Image from NoMa's MBT Safety and Access Study.

'The most important thing we'll do'

The NoMa Green is big. It guarantees that the neighborhood, which is slated to become the densest in Washington DC when it is built out, and those around it, including Eckington and Bloomingdale, will have green space.

"It's huge for the neighborhood," says Jasper. "To be able to have two acres for the people of the neighborhood to use and play on — it's probably the most important thing we'll do."

With the purchase of the plot from Pepco and the deal for a lot at 3rd Street and L Street NE in October, NoMa will shift gears into a design and construction phase, after years of studies and conceptual plans, over the next few years.

Jasper anticipates the first parks—not including the L Street and M Street underpasses that she anticipates will be done later this year—will begin opening over the next couple of years.

The parks cannot come soon enough. NoMa estimates that 36,000 people live within a two sqaure mile radius of 1st Street and M Street and 1st and K Street NE—an area that stretches north to Rhode Island Avenue, south to Union Station, east to 10th Street NE and west to 6th Street NW—and anticipates another 7,000 residential units to open in its more immediate environs by 2018.

"What you're going to have here… you're going to get parks, shopping, retail and restaurants—it's going to be quite an amazing place," says Jasper.

Correction: The original version of this article said the plot extends north to R Street NE when it does not. In addition, it misstated the number of people living within a two-square mile radius of NoMa at 67,000. The correct number is 36,000.

Edward Russell is an air transport reporter by day with a passion for all things transportation. He is a resident of Eckington and tweets frequently about planes, trains and bikes. 

Comments

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lol is Brookland and Capitol Hill part of NoMa now? News to me.

by VJU on Jan 5, 2016 11:58 am • linkreport

So they got the whole plot (minus sub station space)? I thought they were only able to get half of it. It would be nice to see an exact outline of what space they purchased.

by Sally on Jan 5, 2016 12:05 pm • linkreport

It is not the whole lot. It is only the southern half of it. The plot adjacent to R street is still for sale. The last I heard that plot was being sold to a developer for a few townhouses.

by r street resident on Jan 5, 2016 12:28 pm • linkreport

I'll add this link: http://www.nomaparks.org/nomagreen/ which shows which part of the lot it is.

by r street resident on Jan 5, 2016 12:39 pm • linkreport

Isn't that Eckington, VJU? I always figured NY Ave and Fla Ave was the dividing line. Still either way the park is a great idea. I hope they do make it a well lit section along the MBT and dont let it get overgrown there.

by BTA on Jan 5, 2016 12:43 pm • linkreport

@BTA

Yes it is. That's vaguely the NoMa area.

I was referring to the part that said, "The parks cannot come soon enough. NoMa estimates that 67,000 people live within a two-mile radius of 1st Street and M Street NE — an area that stretches nearly as far west as Dupont Circle, east to the Anacostia River, north to Catholic University and south to the Southeast Freeway — and anticipates another 7,000 residential units to open in its more immediate environs by 2018."

What the hell do places 2 miles away have to do with NoMa? That includes far away hoods like Eastern Market and Brookland.

by VJU on Jan 5, 2016 12:59 pm • linkreport

We've updated the story - first, the plot is only the southern half of the open lot and does not go up to R Street. Second, it was a two-square mile radius going out to about 0.8 miles, so its a much smaller area than originally cited.

by Edward R on Jan 5, 2016 2:20 pm • linkreport

OK, I'm a little confused by some of the comments above. Did NoMa's purchase include the section of land next to the MBT zigzag? If not, I don't see how they'd be able to straighten it as part of a park buildout.

by Ampersand on Jan 5, 2016 2:24 pm • linkreport

What this is going to bring to this neighborhood (once not so congested/quiet neighborhood) is more people which equals more congestion, more traffic tie ups (just look at what has become a norm everyday at 1st Street, Florida Avenue and New York Avenue, with the crazy redirection of traffic at this intersection) and more noise if from no other individuals than those who will be coming in and out of the neighborhood when all these developments take place.

by Joyce Harris on Jan 5, 2016 2:29 pm • linkreport

Ah, so no realignment then. Alas. Thanks for the clarification.

by Ampersand on Jan 5, 2016 2:41 pm • linkreport

I work in NoMa and it's a concrete jungle for sure. This is a good start, but would be better if they also bought the adjacent parcel to realign the MBT.

by Cambro on Jan 5, 2016 3:23 pm • linkreport

This is actually the second park for NOMA and they recently announced in December they purchased a lot in what I think we would all actually consider NOMA proper (just south of the Harris Teeter). That, to me, makes a great deal more sense than this purchase. This purchase seems like it will benefit the people who live at the Gale building in Eckington and not many others, since anyone else in NOMA has to cross New York Avenue to get to this relatively small plot of land they are purchasing.

To answer the question on whether this is NOMA, it really isn't as it is on the outside perimeter of Florida Avenue and New York. I would say it more Eckington than NOMA. The Gale building right there is called the Gale in Eckington or whatever. But it is definitely more a no man's land than anything. Hope park-goers enjoy the view of the overpass and the FedEx building.

by Truxtonite on Jan 5, 2016 4:23 pm • linkreport

Also, not sure what VJU is quoting but the article doesn't reference Dupont Circle at all. What I'm seeing, unless I'm losing it: "The parks cannot come soon enough. NoMa estimates that 36,000 people live within a two sqaure mile radius of 1st Street and M Street and 1st and K Street NE—an area that stretches north to Rhode Island Avenue, south to Union Station, east to 10th Street NE and west to 6th Street NW—and anticipates another 7,000 residential units to open in its more immediate environs by 2018."

It references areas that are what is Mount Vernon Triangle, Truxton Circle and Shaw, as well as Eckington and "H Street" though. It's fluff as obviously most of those people are not going to schlep over for this tiny little bit of green space. Although admittedly this park is just as close for people who live in Truxton as many who live in NOMA. And truthfully there aren't many parks around these areas. I just don't personally find one buffered by a fedex depot and a major rail line and a highway overpass to sound very appealing.

by Truxtonite on Jan 5, 2016 4:35 pm • linkreport

The FedEx depot is only caddy corner to the plot while Trilogy NoMa and this 691-unit development will be right across the street. The Pepco substation will shield the park from traffic on the New York Ave bridge.

And a lot of the comments are forgetting that when the city zoned NoMa they forgot to include parks, so the BID has done a good job at making lemonade from the lemons they got. Had the city planned a park at the centre of NoMa back in the early 2000s, then the neighbourhood would have one. It did not so we have to focus on what's possible and happening.

by Edward R on Jan 5, 2016 4:43 pm • linkreport

I suppose you're right Edward R, but I still say this largely benefits the residents of the Gale/Trilogy and not many others. Not sure why NOMA BID cares much about giving them park space.

I would think it would be more worthwhile to focus on plots south of New York Avenue. I agree there isn't much left. The one they secured in December was a good choice, I think. This one, meh. I'm happy it's staying green but unsure why NOMA BID would spend the money for it.

by Truxtonite on Jan 5, 2016 5:08 pm • linkreport

Brookland and NO Mass. Ave. are 2 parallel areas as well as 2

succesive Metro stations.

by phil f on Jan 5, 2016 8:44 pm • linkreport

Truxtonite you do realize there is an entire neighborhood just a stones throw north of the Gale, right? And I think the fact that it's abuts a major trail might also mean more people than just people from the building across the street might use it.

by SamSeaton on Jan 5, 2016 9:36 pm • linkreport

It's probably too late to alter the plans, but IMO, I'd rather see DC attempt a land swap with part of the Flower Market/State Farm parcel, and put the park in a place that's a little more central.

Being bordered by industrial sites on 2 sides is going to limit the use of this park.

The proposed development for that parcel (combined with the existing Trilogy development) is going to create a ton of density in a single superblock (easily putting it in the running for the single most populous block in DC when it's done). Perforating that block with some green space would greatly improve the quality of the development, and wouldn't necessarily have to sacrifice density.

Looking at the zoning map, I noticed that the R Street easement might be large enough to straighten out the MBT "kink" by shifting the alignment to the north.

Disclaimer: I live nearby. This development is almost definitely going to raise my rent to the point where I will need to move. Take that as you will.

by andrew on Jan 6, 2016 8:50 am • linkreport

This park benefits the rest of NoMA because it will be easily accessible from south of Florida via the Met Branch Trail.

by MLD on Jan 6, 2016 8:52 am • linkreport

Out of curiosity what's the design of the park? Playground, picnic tables, seats, what?

by asffa on Jan 6, 2016 9:07 am • linkreport

asffa:

Designs for the space will take time. NoMa plans to hire a designer from among those who have "done the best work for these kinds of parks" and then hold a community design forum for the space before finalising any plans, says Jasper. This is unlikely to begin for at least three months, she adds.

by Edward R on Jan 6, 2016 9:12 am • linkreport

Edward R -
Thanks!

by asffa on Jan 6, 2016 9:14 am • linkreport

@SamSeaton - yes of course I'm aware. I live nearby. But the neighborhood you reference is not NOMA. Good for them (and me) that NOMA BID is footing the bill for it.

I recognize the options are limited for park space and agree MBT helps with access for NOMA proper residents. Just interesting those who live closest are not really NOMA residents and NOMA BID is paying for this all.

by Truxtonite on Jan 6, 2016 11:47 am • linkreport

I moved out of NoMa and not a moment too soon. It is crowded now and this talk of it being the "densest neighborhood" means the place will be absolutely miserable when it's built out. More dense than even Farragut Square or Foggy Bottom? Yikes. The park will help but not much I'm afraid.

Toll Brothers will soon build on the 2nd and K NE lot, removing the impromptu dog run. Judging by the huge numbers of dogs that populated that lot my guess is that this park is doomed to be a dog park no matter what the planners try to do in there.

by massysett on Jan 6, 2016 12:00 pm • linkreport

This may not strictly be part of the NoMA neighborhood as people see it, but it is part of the NoMA BID area.

by MLD on Jan 6, 2016 12:09 pm • linkreport

massysett, you appear to be saying density is making NoMa worse. Blasphemy.

by Kevins on Jan 6, 2016 12:11 pm • linkreport

No one wants to live in NoMa anymore, its too crowded,

by CrossingBrooklynFerry on Jan 6, 2016 12:15 pm • linkreport

@Truxtonite I see your point on the NOMA stuff but I don't feel bad for them since it's not BID money, rather a grant given to them by DC (so everyone's money). Either way new park!!

by SamSeaton on Jan 6, 2016 3:31 pm • linkreport

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