Why NoMa is Hot (Part 1)
If you missed this, you may just get another chance.
Well, not to see the Beatles perhaps, but to see the venue where they played their first US concert 51 years ago. Why? Because, as you've no doubt heard, Seattle-based outdoor goods icon REI last week chose Douglas Development’s Uline Arena for a 51k SF retail showcase. (Product placement: You can hear more at our Bisnow NoMa summit Feb. 10.)
So why would REI pick a structure we bet you've only seen from the train as you pull into Union Station? And make it its first DC store and one of just five "flagships" out of its 140 locations across the country?
We'll give you a hint: REI is cool. Here's their store in Santa Monica the other day. It was founded by mountain climbers in 1938, structured as a co-op, has 5 million members (at $20 each), and is known for getting involved with the local community (for example, giving meeting space to nonprofits).
And Uline Arena is cool. It was built in 1941 by Miguel Uline, an immigrant who made a fortune in the ice business. Jeweler Harry Lynn bought it in 1959 and renamed it Washington Coliseum.
The Beatles frolicked in the snow in front of it.
The cover photo of Bob Dylan's Greatest Hits album was taken there in 1965. Janis Joplin and the Rolling Stones played there. Malcolm X spoke there. Why did concerts stop? They were banned in 1967 after a riot at an appearance by the Temptations.
Well, REI cool has met NoMa cool. Not surprisingly, the cool Jemal family (Norman and Douglas, second and third from left, and Matt on the right) is in the thick of it. They bought Uline in 2004. And REI's cool brokers (Cushman's Matt Alexander and Dave Dochter, the other two in the picture) are in the thick of DC's urban retail revolution.
And all of this is happening in the heart of NoMa. Davis Construction is well underway with gut rehab of Uline and the adjacent "Ice House" (at M and Third St NE, built in 1931 for Miguel Uline's ice business and later used to supply ice to the arena for the Washington Lions hockey team). The Ice House will have 41k SF of office and 11k SF of retail. The Arena, which will be renamed The Coliseum, will have 105k SF of office besides the space for REI. Opening is slated for late 2016.
We walked NoMa with BID president Robin-Eve Jasper, who gave us a bird's eye view of Uline and explained what's appealing to retailers. Starting life with the name Swampoodle in the 1850s, the neighborhood really amped up after getting a second Red Line station in 2004, and then the attention of DC and the Feds as a prime infill area for government offices. Recent trends have shifted toward the private sector, which Robin estimates now constitutes 38% of NoMa's users. After $5B of investment in the last seven years, and a burst of 6.5M SF of office and 3,000 apartments (most already rented), the stats cry out for retail: 44,000 workers and 20,000 residents.
And lots of commuters and visitors due to an array of transportation: VRE, MARC, Amtrak, Metrobus, Greyhound, the NYC buses, the Circulator, Capital Bikeshare, I-395 and those Metro stops. In 2011, what was originally labeled the NY/Florida Avenue station changed its name to NoMa–Gallaudet, signifying the strength of the neighborhood’s brand. Added bonus: $330M in new tax revenue for the city between 2006 and 2014, on a $54M investment in the station.
REI is hardly the only colorful thing happening in the submarket. Just look at the site where JBG’s preparing to build its “N Street NoMa.” Artists have been invited to decorate a building that will be coming down and a fence around an unused parking lot—to psych the area up for the transformation that will deliver by Q1 ‘17: a multi-screen Landmark theater, plus residential, office, and a four-block long retail street meandering among JBG, Skanska and Avalon Bay buildings like a longer and wigglier Bethesda Row. On the distant right in the picture: Hyatt Place, which opened last summer.
More temporary eye candy. This building (owned by JBG, with DC government offices) will also come down…
...and spaces like this will go up. And that's just the beginning. We'll be telling you more about NoMa in the next two issues, as part of our Neighborhood Series presented by United Bank. Culminating in our event on the morning of Feb. 10: "The Explosion of Northeast DC," highlighting NoMa, Union Market and H Street NE. Please join us!