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Old Posted Jul 10, 2014, 8:18 PM
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DC's NoMa neighborhood work in progress

The NoMa neighborhood (for North of Massachusetts Avenue) is DC's version of the redeveloping-downtown-adjacent-former-industrial-area that every large US city seems to have. It's located immediately northwest of Union Station, and is rapidly becoming an extension of downtown.

NoMa has many of the ingredients of a great neighborhood: Solid infrastructure, good architecture, increasing density. But it's clearly still a work in progress. The buildings are dense and generally well-done, but the neighborhood is still half empty, with plenty of undeveloped properties or remaining light industry mixed in with the residential and office high-rises.

The result is a place that has all the usual sterility of a brand new neighborhood, but also still feels empty at times. The streets just aren't full yet. But both those problems will solve themselves in time, as buildings age and more properties fill in.

The neighborhood's main street is First Street NE. It's home to a lovely brand new cycletrack.










New and interesting buildings sprout up everywhere. Closer to Union Station most are office. Further north they transition to become mostly residential.














I really like this one. Such a unique facade treatment. I'm a big fan of ornament like this. I don't care whether it's historicist or contemporary, I just want something interesting to look at.




Near the downtown end, and a couple of blocks over on First Street NW (that's NW instead of NE), there's America's most urban Walmart.


This picture is from the winter.


Being brand new, the neighborhood has a lot of new features. The sidewalk landscaping all doubles as bioswales - stormwater runoff catchment areas. In the last couple of years this has basically become standard on all new sidewalks in the DC area.




Most of the old industrial buildings are pretty banal and are just being torn down. But the ones with some character are being kept and repurposed. This was a department store warehouse, now residential.




A block east of First Street, Metrorail runs elevated.




The NoMa Metro station is one of the few in DC that looks like it has an entrance building.






Directly across the street from the Metro is the headquarters of the US Department of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms. It was built at the height of the post-9/11 terrorism scare, and as a result is basically a fortress. It's very anti-urban, and it already feels out of place. But it was one of the first large buildings to be built in this part of NoMa, so oddly for a few years it was the neighborhood's main anchor. There's some weird irony there.




The Metro tracks run parallel to the intercity rail tracks leading into DC Union Station. There's also a regional bike trail called the Metropolitan Branch Trail (MBT). Next to the elevated Metro station, the trail runs elevated too.




Yes, that's the US Capitol dome in the background.




The elevated trail is a nice spot to overlook a couple of streets. This is M Street. The metallic leaf is public art at the Metro station entrance.




This one is not M Street.






A block or so north of Florida Avenue, the elevated section hits ground, and the trail runs at-grade next to the rail tracks.




New York Avenue passes by overhead, via a large bridge above the rail tracks. The red things are decoration.




The trail's ugliness on that block soon gives way to a beautiful wildflower-covered empty lot.








A little further north, we hit buildings again.




Zoom in...




That's the next Metro station north, Rhode Island Avenue. Also elevated.




OK. Off the trail and back into the neighborhood. North of New York Avenue it's more low-rise. XM radio's headquarters are here, or were before XM and Sirius merged. The merged headquarters are in New York, but XM still has a big office.




Heading back south, we soon reach New York Avenue and its bridge.








Until about a year ago, the bridge had big opaque metal walls, so you couldn't see over its sides. But it was recently renovated, and now the opaque walls have been replaced by transparent ones, so it's a great view.
The walls are necessary because of all the train tracks running underneath. I guess they're concerned people will jump, or maybe throw things. So we get a sturdy glass wall, with little horizontal black lines. Much improved over the old solid metal.

This is an Acela high-speed train, by the way. Not as good as the true bullet trains of Asia or Europe, but the fastest train in the western hemisphere.




That's Noma Metro station off to the right. The blurry line is the top of the glass wall. I stood on the ledge of a light pole to get this picture.




That same Acela train.




Looking in the other direction, there's a big Metro railyard.




And straight down, there's the trail again, and the property with the wildflowers.




The bridge and/or the NoMa Metro station are one of America's best spots for watching passenger trains go by. These pictures are from a weekend, so rail traffic is comparatively light, but even so there was a steady stream of trains and movement.

This is a regular-speed Amtrak train, using one of their brand new Cities Sprinter locomotives.




Want some locomotives?




There's also Maryland's MARC regional rail, which recently started weekend service to Baltimore.




Virginia's VRE commuter rail still only runs on weekdays, unfortunately.




And that's NoMa.
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Last edited by Cirrus; Jul 10, 2014 at 8:28 PM.
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Old Posted Jul 10, 2014, 8:30 PM
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Very nice. Love the green bike lanes. Great set.
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Old Posted Jul 10, 2014, 9:46 PM
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It makes me really happy to see that cycle track! DC's growth in cycling has been inspiring, hope the city keeps up the great work. Thank you for the great photos Cirrus!

Last edited by audiomuse; Jul 10, 2014 at 10:02 PM.
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Old Posted Jul 11, 2014, 12:29 AM
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It's one of those neighborhoods where I wouldn't live but are probably great for suburbanites-wanting-to-move-to-the-city-type of thing.
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Old Posted Jul 11, 2014, 1:17 AM
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It's a horrible place. I used to work right across from that DEA building until a few months ago!

The place is totally ghetto and contrary to optimistic suggestions it's not improving. Lots of homeless people, frequent bank robberies, it's actually kind of dangerous, even in the daytime. I used to go outside my office building and would see prostitutes and street people right next to the new Starbucks across from Harris-Teeter and next to all these gov't buildings.

The main issue for me, though, was that it's a food desert. There was nothing nearby except the horrible chains Roti and Five Guys.

You can't believe how happy I am to have left that place and gotten a new job elsewhere (not in DC). Interestingly enough, the miserable atmosphere outside was a perfect match for the miserable environment inside all those office buildings. Gloomier and lonelier jobs are hard to find.
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Old Posted Jul 11, 2014, 1:56 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ukw View Post
It's a horrible place. I used to work right across from that DEA building until a few months ago!

The place is totally ghetto and contrary to optimistic suggestions it's not improving. Lots of homeless people, frequent bank robberies, it's actually kind of dangerous, even in the daytime. I used to go outside my office building and would see prostitutes and street people right next to the new Starbucks across from Harris-Teeter and next to all these gov't buildings.

The main issue for me, though, was that it's a food desert. There was nothing nearby except the horrible chains Roti and Five Guys.

You can't believe how happy I am to have left that place and gotten a new job elsewhere (not in DC). Interestingly enough, the miserable atmosphere outside was a perfect match for the miserable environment inside all those office buildings. Gloomier and lonelier jobs are hard to find.
What type of job was this gloomy and lonely job?

Where are you working now?
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Old Posted Jul 11, 2014, 12:16 PM
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1st Street NE took forever to complete... that said, I'm glad it's done and the bike lanes are lovely.

My favorite local-chain coffee shop has a location in NoMa - love me some Tynan!
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Old Posted Jul 11, 2014, 1:17 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ukw View Post
The place is totally ghetto and contrary to optimistic suggestions it's not improving... The main issue for me, though, was that it's a food desert. There was nothing nearby except the horrible chains Roti and Five Guys.
About 6 years ago, before all this popped up, my wife's office was at Q Street and Eckington Place. Their only easy lunch options were Wendy's and McDonald's. So I think "it's not improving" is not a very fair comment. It's obviously a far cry from Adams Morgan and still sort of sucks, but there's been a rapid and dramatic expansion of both options and quality. And of course, I didn't show it in this thread because it's not technically NoMa, but hipster Union Market and its more authentic wholesale Florida Market sibling are only 4 blocks away. I don't think you can call a place with several restaurants, a full-service grocery store, and that's within walking distance of the wholesale market where the city's restaurants all get their materials a "food desert."

OTOH, criticizing it as a sort of suburbanites'-idealized-version-of-the-city is I think pretty much exactly spot on.
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Old Posted Jul 11, 2014, 6:58 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ukw View Post
It's a horrible place. I used to work right across from that DEA building until a few months ago!

The place is totally ghetto and contrary to optimistic suggestions it's not improving. Lots of homeless people, frequent bank robberies, it's actually kind of dangerous, even in the daytime. I used to go outside my office building and would see prostitutes and street people right next to the new Starbucks across from Harris-Teeter and next to all these gov't buildings.

The main issue for me, though, was that it's a food desert. There was nothing nearby except the horrible chains Roti and Five Guys.

You can't believe how happy I am to have left that place and gotten a new job elsewhere (not in DC). Interestingly enough, the miserable atmosphere outside was a perfect match for the miserable environment inside all those office buildings. Gloomier and lonelier jobs are hard to find.
When I lived in DC, this area was just weed covered fields, crumbling parking lots, chain link fences and garbage. This is an incedible improvement over that. And it's not the neighborhood's fault you were miserable at your job. I think maybe you are gloomy and miserable and that is determining your worldview and you are projecting. Just a hunch. You still seem pretty bitter and dramatic despite your new job.

Anyway, I am impressed with this turnaround. It's a bit generiods but with more people living and working there it will have more of an authentic feel eventually.
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Old Posted Jul 11, 2014, 7:51 PM
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Great photos, thank you for posting.

ukw:
Quote:
The main issue for me, though, was that it's a food desert. There was nothing nearby except the horrible chains Roti and Five Guys.
Fair enough but Union Market is only about a 10-15 minute walk from NOMA. I think some of the food trucks also park in NOMA.

One NOMA restaurant that is quite good that we went to for brunch recently was the Carving Room.

The walk between Union Station and NOMA should be safer, as this area is kind of rough now. Also, there is persistent crime on the Metropolitan Branch Trail.
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Old Posted Jul 12, 2014, 3:25 PM
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Very interesting tour to see the transportation infrastructure of that area of DC. Very good pictures too.

I´ve specially liked the bike lanes, they look very safe for the cyclists.

Thanks and greetings from Madrid, Spain.
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