The first rods of "Rain" are up on the south side of the M Street NE underpass in NoMa. Image by the author.

The NoMa Parks Foundation has begun to the turn the lights on in the M Street NE underpass. The first rods of “Rain,” the public art installation selected to illuminate and activate the space in 2015, are up and glowing on the south side of the street.

"Rain" lit up in the M Street underpass. Image by the author.

Rain is made up of 4,000 LED light rods hung from the ceiling of the underpass in a series of vaults. It is designed by Thurlow Small Architects and NIO.

Installation began in January above the south sidewalk in the underpass and appeared nearly complete at the end of last week. NoMa will begin installation above the north sidewalk once it finishes the south side, with a ribbon cutting expected in the coming months.

A long time coming

It is exciting to finally see Rain lighting up M Street. A series of issues, many unforeseen at the outset, pushed installation back for what was to be the NoMa Business Improvement District's first public space with the $50 million it received from the District government in 2014.

Issues ranging from an attempt to value engineer the installation to approvals from Amtrak, which owns the ceiling and walls of the overpass, delayed installation to this winter.

Work began, and stopped again, on Rain in 2016. Image by the author.

“We've had, really, one stumble and that's this M Street underpass,” said NoMa BID president Robin-Eve Jasper at an April 2017 community meeting.

Rain is now in the running with Swampoodle Park to be NoMa's first new public space. Both are under construction, along with installation of “Lightweave” in the L Street NE underpass, and all are expected to be completed soon.

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.