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Amid NoMa's High-Rises, Some Green Starts To Grow

If all goes according to plan, NoMa residents will have a new, lush, green public park to enjoy in 2018, thanks to the NoMa Parks Foundation, which has just acquired the two-acre parcel of land it’s had its collective eyes on for years.

The Foundation paid Pepco $14M for the vacant site, which is bordered by Harry Thomas Way, the Metropolitan Branch Trail and New York Avenue NE (above). NoMa Green, as it will now be called, is already being talked about as the backyard for the neighborhood.

The former Pepco property is the second acquisition since the Foundation, an affiliate of the NoMa BID, received a $50M grant from the DC government to develop new public parks and civic spaces in NoMa.

The neighborhood was carved out of old industrial properties, train yards and vacant land. Now it's got thousands of residents and offices in new high-rise buildings, but no green space to speak of.

Preliminary plans for NoMa Green envision a multi-purpose park with informal play areas, a large open gathering space, and perhaps a versatile amphitheater that can be used for public events and other activities, says StonebridgeCarras principal Doug Firstenberg, chairman of the NoMa BID.

But before all of that can happen, there’s about a year’s worth of planning ahead, in all some 18 to 24 months before the park opens. Earlier this year, the BID bought land (above) that will accommodate an 8k SF park at 3rd and L streets NE, a few blocks south of the NoMa Green.

With more than 36,000 people living in the greater NoMa area and more than 7,000 units in the pipeline, it’s essential to have a diverse collection of parks and open spaces, says Robin-Eve Jasper, president of the NoMa BID. “This acquisition secures a green future for NoMa residents.”

The acquisition means the foundation has made good on its priority commitment to create an adequate-sized park suitable for a variety of recreational activities, and to do so before the opportunity might be foreclosed forever, adds Sandy Wilkes, chairman of the NoMa Parks Foundation, citing the growth of residential and commercial development of the neighborhood.

Andy Vanhorn, principal at JBG, is leading the development of Capital Point, where he and JV partner Brandywine Realty Trust have plans to build a three-part mixed-use building that includes office, residential and a Landmark movie theater. 

Just last fall, JBG acquired Trilogy NoMa, the 603-unit apartment complex built by Mill Creek Residential, and renamed it The Gale. That complex stands right next to the planned NoMa Green, and JBG's JV with the Boundary Cos in Eckington for a 691-unit, 50k SF of retail mixed-use project is almost as close.

Andy calls NoMa Green a significant step in creating a complete urban environment. It’s also an opportunity, he adds, for adjacent gathering places to create a sense of place in a new development for the first time in the heart of NoMa/Eckington.