The foundation that plans park development in NoMa just bought its first piece of land. That means progress for the booming neighborhood, where it’s been tough to get an ambitious park plan off the ground.

The site NoMa acquired at 3rd and L St NE. Photo by Google Maps.

The plot is at the southwest corner of 3rd St and L St NE. It’s 5,200 square feet, which means that when combined with land the city already owns, NoMa will have about 8,000 square feet of new public space.

In 2012, the NoMa Business Improvement District made a public realm design plan, which BID president Robin Eve-Jasper calls something of a “bible” for park planning in the neighborhood. A year later, the BID budgeted $50 million for creating parks in the neighborhood.

Progress has been slow. The BID has only begun public design work on two spaces: selecting art installations that will brighten and hopefully activate the underpasses on L St and M St NE, and securing commitments from some developers to provide space for a mid-block meander between 1st St NE and North Capitol St.

In addition, NoMa BID faced a setback when a developer outbid it for an 8,720 square foot plot at Florida Avenue, 3rd St and N St NE. The BID had identified the land for a potential N Street Park.

“There was no land that was reserved for parks in the neighborhood,” says Eve-Jasper. “We’re going out and trying to convince developers to sell their land and give up on the profit they think they’d make.”

This is a big step forward…

As NoMa’s first closing, the $3.2 million deal for the plot at 3rd and L, which sits behind the Loree Grand apartments, represents an “important acquisition” for neighborhood, says Eve-Jasper.

“We were lucky,” she says. “The seller’s one requirement was we were able to have a closing within 30 days,” something the BID was able to do with its “effective partnership and mechanism for getting through the acquisition process.”

The non-profit NoMa Parks Foundation, which is part of the BID, handled the deal. The District of Columbia will officially own the land.

…and it’s hopefully just the start

To bring its public realm design plan to life, NoMa needs more land. The BID is in negotiations with a number of landowners for other sites in the neighborhood, says Eve-Jasper. She declines to specify what sites due to confidentiality agreements.

“We hope to have a clear idea of all the acquisitions in the next couple of months, and then we will make a decision on how each parcel fits into the system [of parks],” she says.

This includes determining how to use the site at 3rd and L, she adds. One potential use for the site is a dog park that could replace the unofficial one on the empty lot previously used for the NoMa Summer Screen that will be developed soon.

One closely-watched site is the large Pepco-owned plot north of New York Ave adjacent to the Metropolitan Branch Trail (MBT). NoMa has identified it as a potential location for a large green space in the design plan.

Base image from Google Maps.

“It’s no secret based on the public realm design plan that we’ve dreamed on acquiring a large plot owned by Pepco,” says Eve-Jasper. “That piece is so big, that obviously would be the best place for informal recreation in the neighborhood.”

Work will also begin soon on NoMa’s underpass projects. It plans to begin installation of Rain in the M St underpass before the end of the year and of Lightweave in the L St underpass before the end of the fiscal year in September 2016, she says.

Construction of the first block of the meander, between N St and Patterson St NE, is expected to begin in 2016, adds Eve-Jasper. Developer JBG will build this first section as part of a planned mixed-use development that will include a new Landmark Cinema.

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.