Why NoMa is Hot (Part 3)
We are pleased to report that the Millennials discovering NoMa have a sense of humor. Observing how so many squares and circles in DC are named for heroic figures, like Admiral Farragut or Commander John Logan of the Army of Tennessee, they’ve come up with an informal name for the intersection of New York and Florida Avenues...
..."Dave Thomas Circle." (If you don't get it, that's what Google's for.)
The same Wendy's as seen in perspective from the top of Three Constitution Square (where we'll be holding our Explosion of Northeast DC summit Feb. 10).
NoMa has another symbol besides Dave Thomas Circle--the venerable water tower atop One NoMa Station at 131 M St NE, originally a Woodie's warehouse built in 1939 and restored 10 years ago by SF's Bristol Group for the first big new office use in NoMa by the EEOC.
Although the current water tower is noble and handsome, we note with all due respect that water towers have been around in the US at least since 1860 (according to our rigorous research in Wikipedia). What NoMa should be touting instead, we believe (in our role as its self-appointed marketing adviser), is the fact it is the first neighborhood in DC, as of April of last year, to provide free WiFi to the denizens of all its 35 blocks. Do you know that the term "WiFi" was coined just 15 years ago? (Previously it was known as "IEEE 802.11b Direct Sequence." We are not making that up.) It's amazing that NoMa is so cutting-edge. It should be shouted from the rooftops. So that's what we're literally proposing.
Indeed, NoMa is trying to be nimble and avant-garde in its public visuals. The DC government has given it a $50M grant for parks, which can be used also to support art installations. For example, the Florida Avenue underpass is on tap to be decorated by local artists.
Well, enough about art. Let's turn to food. As we know, red-blooded Millennials eat every meal out and spend way more time outside their apartments than inside. So the District’s first urban Walmart is a critical linchpin, opened last spring, to provision them for every contingency, and providing a larger grocery selection than at a normal Walmart. JBG and JBGR developed and sold the building (77 H St NW, including the 80k SF store and 303 residences) to Clarion Partners last spring.
In the first two installments of this series, we told you mainly about retail and multifamily. Office, though slower as everywhere these days, is also still coming, including this Republic Properties site at 660 N Capitol for new office and retail.
Hard to believe that One and Two Constitution Square, a few blocks away and delivered only six years ago, are now the granddaddies of NoMa.
At this point, we must wax nostalgic. Here’s a picture we took of pioneering developer Doug Firstenberg at his bold Constitution Square project in Nov. 2009, when NoMa tenants were still something of a dream.
We reported from the scene nearly eight years ago, in June 2007 when Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton joined Mayor Fenty and then-NoMa BID chair Bruce Baschuk for the official proclamation of a NoMa BID.
You may well have been among the 460 who came to see for yourselves at our NoMa Breakfast & Schmooze at Tishman Speyer’s brand new 1100 First St in Feb. 2010.
Here we were more than two years earlier, in Oct. 2007, to record the hole for that very building (designed by Gensler, dug by Davis).
In 2011, restaurateur Ellen Gray gave us a tour of her and husband Todd’s new Watershed restaurant at the Hilton Garden Inn, which was willing to struggle at first on a such a new frontier, but is going strong today.
Last week we drove by Brookfield’s 77 K…
…and it brought back memories of this topping out party in Dec. 2007 with Brookfield brass like Paul Schulman and Davis’, too. We know we were at the groundbreaking in 2005 or 2006 with Marc DeLuca, Zeke Dodson and others—we can remember having trouble finding the address in the middle of nowhere, but can’t find the pictures. Maybe cameras hadn’t been invented yet.
So here’s what we think. You see this broad plaza in front of Three Constitution with the large paver stones? We have a marketing brainstorm: Invite Washington sport figures, mayors, top chefs and other DC celebrities to place their signatures, handprints and footprints in the concrete, like at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre. It will become a silly but buzzed-about tourist destination. Y’know, folks like John Wall, Alex Ovechkin, RGIII, Bryce Harper, Ris LaCoste, Jose Andres, and then mix in the other local heroes like Bruce Baschuk, Doug Firstenberg, Liz Price and Robin-Eve Jasper. We’re serious, folks. They’re all game changers. So what if it attracts some folks dressed up as Batman and Spider Woman, like in Hollywood? It’s all good.