NoMa is short for “North of Massachusetts Avenue,” a neighborhood north of Union Station. The district is bounded by Massachusetts Avenue to the south, New Jersey and North Capitol Street to the west, and Q and R streets to the north; it also extends eastward just beyond the CSX/Metrorail tracks
Price managed and marketed NoMa for four years, through two District mayors, two trips to the International Council of Shopping Centers conference and one financial crisis. Via e-mail from her new home in Germany, she offered some lessons learned from her work.
What were a few key turning points that allowed NoMa to evolve?
In one week in April 2008, we landed two major anchor tenants — the new National Public Radio headquarters and 600,000 square feet for the Department of Justice, which put us on the map for a lot of people.
Second, Constitution Square. Nothing accelerates neighborhood development better than a mega, mixed-used project delivering 1.6 million square feet of office, hotel, residential and retail space. It brought a critical mass of people and retail amenities to the heart of NoMa. The most important component of that project was the 50,000 square-foot Harris Teeter. It has become a magnet for the neighborhood and a huge selling point to new residents.
Many people did not know what “NoMa” meant when you started, or where it was.
What did you do to educate people?
It took time and the BID is still working to expand awareness. The BID became a hub for NoMa development information and kept the community and press updated about the steady stream of groundbreakings and lease announcements. We met with hundreds of tenants, brokers, investors and developers, wrote articles for industry newsletters and spoke on panels — we took any opportunity to share the vision for NoMa.
We also did unconventional things, like hosting Artomatic in 2008 which brought 1,000 artists and 50,000 people to the neighborhood for the first time, and hosting outdoor movies that attract hundreds each week from across the region.
Was there a moment in time when you thought to yourself that NoMa might not become the robust place that it has?
The early days were tougher. Many people were skeptical; they didn’t know or believe in the vision for NoMa. We had big ambitions but we didn’t have much to show for it. Once the first tenants moved in and retail leases starting getting signed, it got easier.
There were some anxious moments, though, when we had about 3 million square feet under construction and the economy started crashing in fall of 2008. A lot of our office buildings were spec, so you had to wonder if we could get all of that space leased. Today those spaces are occupied and new projects are under way. If we were not in D.C., it would have been a different story.