Emerging from what used to be mostly empty industrial lots, NoMa is a vibrant neighborhood in Northeast Washington that has quickly become a go-to destination for new residents and businesses in the city.
The name is a moniker for “north of Massachusetts Avenue,” given to the area in the late 1990s. Marc A. Weiss, chief executive officer of Global Urban Development, says he invented the term in June 1998. Since that time, and especially with the opening of the NoMa/Gallaudet University Metro station in 2004, there’s been a collective effort to create the neighborhood almost from scratch.
“NoMa is a uniquely successful urban planning and development partnership,” said Robin-Eve Jasper, president of the NoMa Business Improvement District. “It is one of the few places where the public sector and a variety of private-sector actors voluntarily collaborated to create a great 21st-century neighborhood. It is studied by urban planners the world over, yet right here at home in D.C., I don’t think many people know that.”
In 2014, Toll Brothers Developers received approval to start construction of an apartment building on land that was being used as an unofficial community dog park. In response, residents collected hundreds of signatures and brought a signed petition to Jasper. By 2015, the NoMa BID used grant money from the city to create the Swampoodle dog park about a block from the original lot.
“When we realized NoMa was going to need parks for all the people moving here, we started the NoMa Parks Foundation,” Jasper said. “So far we’ve delivered three parks, with a fourth, really large park currently under construction.”
In addition to green spaces, high-rise apartment buildings and new restaurants have sprung up all over the area. The apartment buildings are largely mixed-use, with retail on the first floor.
Red Bear Brewing opened in March and is one of the newest businesses in the area. Co-owner Bryan Van Den Oever looked at spaces on H Street and in Georgetown and Ivy City before snapping up the space next to the historic Uline Arena, where the Beatles played their first U.S. concert.
“We absolutely love the Uline Arena building, the history about it, the look and feel of the building, and how accessible it is to the Metro,” Van Den Oever said. “We wanted to be in a space that could be a community space. We definitely found that here in NoMa.”
The expansive redbrick building makes a perfect spot for a brewery, home to regular live-music nights, trivia nights and other community events. Because Gallaudet University is nearby, Red Bear’s employees are learning basic ASL (American Sign Language), helping to foster an inclusive community.
“NoMa is different from elsewhere in the city,” Van Den Oever said. “Dupont has that look and feel of an older city, it’s established. NoMa, w With its new buildings, new businesses, new residents — it has a certain vibrancy. It’s still figuring out what it is and we’re happy to be a part of figuring that out.”
Residents like Salim Bhabhrawala, who has lived in NoMa for nearly 16 years, relish the opportunity to be an integral part of what’s happening in their community.
“There is a special vibe here in NoMa,” Bhabhrawala said. “Many people can easily say ‘Yeah, I get along great with my neighbors,’ but people’s lives here are truly interconnected. We even have a group called NoMa Newborns, established three short months ago with 17 babies and their families getting together for the occasional happy hour. It’s all been a truly organic movement.”
Union Market is perhaps NoMa’s best-known attraction, an expansive food hall home to over 40 vendors as well as a pop-up movie theater. La Cosecha, a market celebrating Latin American culture and art, will open at the Market this summer. Numerous restaurants have sprung up along the streets surrounding Union Market, with many more in the works. According to Eve-Jasper at the NoMa Business Improvement District, five new restaurants are expected to open this year in the First Street area alone.
Living there: NoMa doesn’t have official boundaries, but it generally stretches from Union Station to the intersection of New York and Florida avenues, and from North Capitol Street east to the blocks immediately east of the train tracks.
According to Lee Goldstein, an agent with RLAH Real Estate, nine properties are for sale in NoMa, ranging from a one-bedroom condo on Florida Avenue listed for $428,500 to a 3,000-square-foot, two-bedroom, two-bathroom condo on I Street NE listed for $1,749,900.
Three properties are under contract in NoMa. They range from a three-bedroom, two-bathroom rowhouse on Third Street NE listed for $649,999 to a four-bedroom, four-bathroom rowhouse on Q Street NE listed for $995,000.
In the past six months, 17 properties sold, ranging from a studio on Third Street NE that sold for $272,000 to a 1700-square-foot, two-bedroom, three-bathroom condo on I Street NE that sold for $1,080,000.
Rent for a one-bedroom condo in NoMa averages just less than $2,200 a month.
Transit: According to D.C. Council member Charles Allen (D-Ward 6), NoMa’s easy accessibility to the rest of the city is intentional.
“If everybody who moved into NoMa decided to drive a car, it would be instant gridlock. The solution is to be able to build this neighborhood in a way that you don’t need a car,” Allen said.
“Along First Street NE, there’s a dedicated cycle track that helps people be able to bike through their community. Metropolitan Branch Trail comes right down into NoMa so from that you can head north and get anywhere you want to go pretty quickly.” The trail spans eight miles from Union Station to Silver Spring, Md.
Residents have the option of two Metro stations, NoMa Gallaudet or Union Station, both on the Red Line. Union Station is a hub for Amtrak, MARC and Virginia Railway Express trains as well as several bus services. The streetcar on H Street is also close by. If you have a car, New York Avenue connects to several major roads in and out of the city.
Schools: Gonzaga College High School (private), J.O. Wilson and Ludlow-Taylor elementary schools, Stuart-Hobson Middle School and Eastern High.
Crime: According to crimemap.dc.gov, there have been three homicides, seven assaults with a dangerous weapon and 20 burglaries in the area in the past year.