Plans for a big development in NoMa include new public “bike lobby” that will connect the Metropolitan Branch Trail to Florida Avenue. As of now, though, the storage space and passageway won’t be open around the clock, making it less useful and the trail potentially less safe.
An elevation of the planned South Tower at Washington Gateway with the proposed bike lobby. Image by MRP Realty.
The lobby, located inside the planned South Tower of the Washington Gateway development on the triangle between New York Avenue NE, Florida Avenue, and the MBT, will be accessible via automatic doors off the MBT. Pedestrians and cyclists will then descend take the stairs down to Florida Avenue and the Union Market area, developer MRP Realty said in its latest filing with the DC Zoning Commission.
The lobby would include bike racks, an air pump, a water fountain, and information about the trail and surrounding neighborhoods.
"This connection is critical to creating a link that allows convenient access from the Eckington neighborhood to the amenities of NoMa and Union Market,” MRP said in the filing.
There is one problem: The lobby will only be open to the public from 6 am to 9 pm daily, confirms Matthew Robinson, a principal at MRP Realty, when asked about comments made at an Eckington Civic Association (ECA) meeting in May.
Limiting the hours of the connection would significantly hinder access to Union Market from the MBT, and further isolate the trail at night, heightening residents and users’ existing safety concerns.
The MBT needs a full-time connection to Florida Avenue
Adding more access points to the MBT is something the NoMa Business Improvement District (BID) says will make the trail safer. It would increase the number of “eyes on the trail” by encouraging more people to use the facility.
When NoMa BID studied how to improve the MBT, it also found that access from the trail to the popular and rapidly developing Union Market area was important to users and residents. The BID identified a connection through Washington Gateway as a good way to do this.
The proposal for a connection between the MBT and Union Market through Washington Gateway. Image from MBT Safety and Access study.
It’s shortsighted to limit connections between the trail and any rapidly growing neighborhood. Thousands of new residents will eventually live in the many planned developments along the MBT and around Union Market.
An open-air bike lobby could work
One alternative for MRP to consider is to build the bike lobby as an exterior space, rather than an interior one.
A comparable example is the open-air passageway through 1350 Connecticut Avenue NW that connects the southern exit from the Dupont Circle Metro station to Connecticut Avenue next to Krispy Kreme donuts.
In NoMa, developer JBG has included an open-air pedestrian passageway through one of the planned buildings between First Street NE and Patterson Street NE as part of what’s being called the NoMa meander.
The NoMa meander could include this open-air pedestrian passageway through a building. Image by the JBG Companies.
One issue with such a connection would be keeping the stairwell clean and clear. But this is not insurmountable, as many cities around the country maintain numerous public outdoor stairwells.
MRP wants to improve the trail
The developer plans to invest $150,000 in improvements to the MBT, including landscaping, lighting, and paving improvements. That’s in addition to the $1.2 million that it has budgeted for the bike lobby, its zoning commission filing shows.
In addition, the developer says its plans for Washington Gateway include a gym, as well as apartments and balconies, that will face the MBT and help activate the space by increasing the number of eyes on the trail.