A large park is coming to NoMa, and its design includes a lawn and a children’s play area. There will also be a café situated around two pedestrian walkways that extend DC’s street grid through the space.

This will soon be a great new park. The view here is from Harry Thomas Way NE. The MBT runs down the far side of the space. Image from Google Maps.

Previously known as the NoMa Green, the park will go up on two acres next to the Metropolitan Branch Trail (MBT), north of the New York Avenue bridge. Heading up both the park’s design and construction is the NoMa Parks Foundation, an affiliate of the NoMa Business Improvement District (BID). It bought the land from Pepco in January.

Robin-Eve Jasper, president of both the parks foundation and BID, has described the park as the “most important thing” that the organization will do for parks in the neighborhood.

Landscape architecture firm Nelson Byrd Woltz, which is known locally for its work on the public spaces in North Bethesda Market and on the landscape design guidelines for the McMillan Sand Filtration Site, won the design competition.

In May, the space gained half an acre thanks to a donation from developer Folger-Pratt, which plans a large development on the empty plot just to the north of the park (the “future private development” in the map below). The donation means there’s space to make the trail’s S-curve at R Street a lot easier to ride.

An early conceptual drawing of the full large park site. Image by NoMa BID.

Extending the city grid to define spaces in the park

The park will have walkways that follow the paths of Q Street and 3rd Street and break the space up into four quadrants— like the District itself. Each quadrant will have a separate use, including a café and restroom building in one, a possible children’s garden in another, and the large lawn that the BID has sought for the park in another.

“You have these long incredible avenues and boulevards that stitch the city together… they’re kind of what DC is all about,” said Thomas Woltz, principal at Nelson Byrd Woltz, at a community meeting on the park in October.

The park’s four quadrants. Image by Nelson Byrd Woltz.

One aspect of the plan is a “remediation” meadow, named such for the pollution in the soil that will be taken out by planting native flora, that Woltz says recalls the site’s industrial past. The meadow will also have a boardwalk and a small hill, with the latter acting as a natural barrier between the pedestrian and bike traffic on the trail and people in the park.

This is an example of adding topography that engages users in park spaces, which was an element that designers highlighted when they looked at other parks as models for this one earlier this year.

Other aspects in the plan include imbedding old railroad rails in the paved areas at the edge of the park as a reminder of its history as the Eckington Yards, says Woltz.

A view of rails imbedded in the ground and the potential cafe from the street. Image by Nelson Byrd Woltz.

The design also includes a dog park in the half acre of green space created by the softening of the curve on the MBT at the northernmost end of the Pepco site. This would complement the dog park that the NoMa BID plans for the corner of Third Street and L Street NE.

Community engagement ahead

The NoMa BID plans to engage the community and work with the team at Nelson Byrd Woltz to finalize the park design’s details throughout this year. Under its latest timeline, construction could begin as early as 2017, and it could be be complete by 2018.

Attendees at the October meeting were given the chance to review the conceptual design for the space and chat with officials. One point that was raised was how, by following the city grid, the Q Street path meets the MBT at a point north of the southernmost junction of the trail and park, where many residents of Eckington will walk to reach popular destinations like the NoMa-Gallaudet Metro station.

Image by Nelson Byrd Woltz and modified by the author.

NoMa BID officials and the designers welcomed the comments, saying that the designs are just the first in the process.