The Northeast Washington neighborhood of NoMa — north of Massachusetts Avenue — is an oasis of walkable streets.
“We have a car but don’t use it often, just weekends,” said Melissa Thompson, who moved from Mount Vernon Square.
Banks, cleaners, FedEx, a post office and a deli are nearby. Harris Teeter is in NoMa, at First and M streets NE, and Giant Food and Wal-Mart have stores just outside the neighborhood.
“The Metro station, transit connectivity and proximity to downtown are big attractions. Fewer than 15 percent of residents drive to work,” said Robin-Eve Jasper, president of the NoMa Business Improvement District (BID).
“You can easily walk to Union Market a few blocks east and a couple to the north,” said Christine Fletcher, who moved from Silver Spring and bikes a lot.
“I work in Chinatown,” added Fletcher. “I definitely won’t have an excuse getting there next time it snows.”
Development in the works: NoMa hasn’t been NoMa very long. Before the name was conceived in the late 1990s and the new buildings followed in the new century, the area was largely desolate, known to many Washingtonians mainly as the site of the Greyhound station.
Today, the scene there is crisp, urban and painted in myriad textures. The streets include a few blocks of older rowhouses, a wave of new glass-and-steel residential and office high-rises that blend with street-side retail, benches on brick sidewalks, attractive drainage gardens — and construction sites.
The neighborhood is home to the Uline Arena, site of the Beatles’ first U.S. concert in 1964, once endangered but soon to be the site of REI outdoors store, and the Woodward & Lothrop Service Warehouse, now reconfigured into offices. The historic 1860s Government Printing Office building is just to the west. In 2013, NPR moved to a new headquarters building on North Capitol Street.
NoMa feels spacious. It’s busy but not crowded. According to the NoMa BID, thousands of residents live in 3,836 apartments, 44,000 office workers are employed, retail occupies 358,000 square feet and free outdoor WiFi spans 18 blocks.
More of everything is on the drawing board. More hotels, more residential units, more stores, more restaurants and more offices are coming. There are plans to build a 12-screen movie theater at North Capitol Street and New York Avenue and possibly to someday develop several new blocks above the tracks north of Union Station.
“It’s interesting to see developers infilling the empty spaces, and it’s great to be part of the conversations trying to do this in a way that enhances a sense of community,” said Gerard Wall, a two-year resident who serves on the local Advisory Neighborhood Commission’s Transportation and Public Space Committee and its Parks and Events Committee. “My job as an ANC member is to ensure this.”
“NoMa is unique,” added Wall, a solutions architect at Vibeffect. “Very rarely do you get to witness a part of the city transform itself the way NoMa has.”
Nerds and yoga: “A unique characteristic of NoMa is that developers are not only highly invested in its success, they’re very collaborative,” said Jasper. “For example, they frequently allow temporary use of undeveloped land they own for the public’s benefit.”
Several developers permanently ceded land for parks and public spaces.
A film series, NoMa Summer Screen, usually takes place on privately owned, undeveloped parcels.
The Lobby Project, in the glass-walled lobby of 1200 First St. NE, owned by Principal Financial Group, is a pop-up established by the BID in partnership with the D.C. Office of Planning. It presents the “Nerds in NoMa” speaker series, “Yoga NoMa,” chamber concerts, and gallery shows curated by Washington Project for the Arts.
Four developers — JBG, Skanska, MRP Realty and AvalonBay — are collaborating on a four-block pedestrian corridor called NoMa Meander. With water features, ground-level retail and pocket parks, it will run between North Capitol Street and First Street NE.
Living there: NoMa, Zip code 20002, stretches from Union Station north to the intersection of New York and Florida avenues, and from North Capitol Street east to the blocks immediately east of the train tracks. The housing is mostly rentals, with a few condos in rowhouses and traditional rowhouses “that seem to turn over in a couple days,” said Wall. “There’s definitely a need for more housing to buy. We’re house-poor and apartment-rich.”
According to Larry Bivins, a sales associate with Long & Foster, one three-bedroom, two-bathroom rowhouse is on the market for $559,000.
Four properties are under contract, ranging from a three-bedroom, two-bath rowhouse for $459,900 to a three-bedroom, three-bath condo in a rowhouse for $679,000.
Over the past year, 19 homes sold in the area, at prices ranging from $349,000 in a short sale for a three-bedroom, one-bath rowhouse to $745,000 for a three-bedroom, three-bath condo in a rowhouse.
According to Apartments.com, about two dozen rentals are available, ranging from a studio at Trilogy NoMa for $1,347 a month to a two-bedroom at Loree Grand at Union Place for $5,418.
Transit: Two Metro stations on the Red line, NoMa-Gallaudet U and Union Station, anchor the community. Union Station is a stop for Amtrak, MARC and Virginia Railway Express trains as well as several bus services — Greyhound, Bolt Bus, Megabus, DC2NY, Sprinter Bus and Washington Deluxe Bus.
Metrobus and the Circulator crisscross the neighborhood, and Capital Bikeshare has several stations there.
Bicylists, runners and walkers have access to the Metropolitan Branch Trail, which spans eight miles from Union Station to Silver Spring, Md.
Schools: J.O. Wilson and Ludlow-Taylor elementary, Stuart-Hobson Middle, and Eastern High.
Crime: In the past 12 months, according to D.C. police, the area had one homicide, 24 assaults with a dangerous weapon, 47 robberies and nine burglaries.
Audrey Hoffer is a freelance writer.