An aerial view of the design for NoMa's new large park. Image by NoMa Parks.

The NoMa Parks Foundation has begun the process of selecting a name for its new large park off the Metropolitan Branch Trail north of Florida Avenue. Taking into account some of the controversy over naming the space directly after the neighborhood, the organization is looking to local history and landmarks for possible ideas.

NoMa first identified the need for a large park in the neighborhood in its 2012 public realm design plan, dubbing the prospective space adjacent to the trail and north of the New York Avenue bridge the “Pepco Park” and later the “NoMa Green”. With $50 million from the District government, the neighborhood organization was able to buy the two-acre lot from Pepco in early 2016 and has quickly moved forward on designing the space.

However, a somewhat surprising neighborhood objection popped up: what to call the new park. The space is technically in Eckington, the southern portion of which is included in the NoMa Business Improvement District (BID). NoMa Parks was set up by the BID in 2012 to lead its park development work.

The southern portion of Eckington, including the new park, lies within the boundaries of the NoMa BID. Image by NoMa BID and Edward Russell.

Residents of Eckington have reservations with using “NoMa” in the park name. Concerns include a fear that the lesser-known but older Eckington could lose some of its identity to its better-known and newer neighbor to the south, something that has come up repeatedly on neighborhood message boards and at Eckington Civic Association meetings during the past few years.

“Eckington residents are excited about this park,” says Hannah Powell, the representative for ANC 5E03, which includes the new park. “Many residents have expressed a desire for the park's name to embrace the rich history of the community. I'm hopeful through this open nomination and voting process we'll find a name that both honors the community's past and embraces the park's future at the heart of the city.”

Tapping local identity

“The name of this park will shape how people perceive it,” said Britt Cobb, an associate partner at Pentagram Design, on the naming of the park at a community meeting on August 9.

The firm, which has previously worked on Governor's Island in New York and Santa Fe Railyard Park in New Mexico, is leading the naming and branding process for the large park, as well as a smaller one in the works at the corner of 3rd Street NE and L Street NE.

The plan for the new park at 3rd Street and L Street in NoMa. Image by NoMa Parks.

Cobb's presentation cited a number of naming ideas with roots in the identity of the area. These include the prevalence of “union,” including Union Market and Union Station, in the neighborhood, historical names like Swampoodle, and notable past residents like Amos Kendall, who donated land for what became Gallaudet University.

Meeting attendees came up with a number of ideas for park names at the meeting using some of the suggestions, including Union Bend and Kendall Green for the large park, and Swampdoodle Run or Old City Corner for the 3rd and L park.

NoMa Parks is soliciting community input on names for both the large space along the MBT and the 3rd and L park through August 25.

The organization plans to release a short list of names that keep with local identity - or as NoMa Parks director Stacie West puts it, no “Boaty McBoatface” situations - for residents to vote on in September.

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.