"NoMa Green" Creates a New Space at its Community Meeting

Rendering of MBT Connector at NoMa Green Park
Image: Nelson Byrd Woltz
The NoMa Parks Foundation held a community meeting on the planned “NoMa Green” park. The meeting was held at the Hilton Garden Inn at 1225 First Street NE and presented updated concept designs that reflected comments received on the design presented at the October 2016 meeting.

The meeting was the first opportunity for the winning design firm, Nelson Byrd Woltz, to publicly display its "100 percent design" of the NoMa Green project. The presentation didn't contain the specific details of all park areas but represented the overall direction of the park, its structure, potential programming, and how they hope the park will develop from the initial opening through the next 20 years.

Concept Design, Current Site Plan for "NoMa Green" Park
R Street is left, Harry Thomas Way is top,
New York Avenue is bottom right
Image: Nelson Byrd Woltz
Participants listened to the initial presentation and then broke out into three smaller groups to discuss certain park elements. The design team expanded the centerpiece of the park, the open lawn, by 30 percent. To accommodate this, the meadow, which acts as a natural buffer and contains plantings that help remediate contaminated soil, was reduced.

The plan also called for an expanded boardwalk over the meadow to create additional programming and recreational space. For dog owners, the plan slightly expands the dog park, creates separate access points for large and small dogs and adds other play features, and the addition of a fountain, among other improvements.

Proposed markings to aid in wayfinding, trail identification
will retain its current appearance
Image: Author
For bicycling, initial park plans called for the realignment of the Metropolitan Branch Trail (MBT) for improved travel and the elimination of the infamous "z curve" that effectively bring bicyclist to a halt. The plan creates an "s curve" that travels past a future commercial and residential development that abuts R Street NE, past a dog park and through the parks meadow and south plaza. 

To accommodate all park users, changes to the original presentation include the widening of park entry points. This includes the expanding of the MBT connector, a paved multi-use stretch that links the trail to Harry Thomas Way NE, from 15 to 18 feet. The connector, which runs past a stage and a small café, also contains directional pavement markings to clearly identify bike travel. The presenters noted that the park contains 40 bike locking posts that provide space for over 80 bikes.

To help reduce interactions between park and trail users, this section of the MBT is expanded from 11 to 15 feet. Presenters noted that the trees and other vegetation would not obscure sight lines, helping to reduce the possibility of crashes. The trail and certain paths that lead to it are illuminated with recessed lighting.
Looking from R Street, at the MBT and the dog park.
Image: Nelson Byrd Woltz

Many participants voiced support for the park and the modifications made. There were certain concerns about bicycle interaction on MBT as these improvements would likely force cyclists to reduce speeds on the popular commuter route.

However, Katie Harris of the Washington area bicyclist association explained that the Metropolitan Branch Trail is more than just a bicycle trail, but is a public amenity that everyone should use. She suggested that while bicyclists may need to slow down, it isn't necessarily a bad thing.

Jeanie Osburn, Facilities Committee Co-Chair of the D.C. Bicycle Advisory Council also noted that the addition of a high-quality park along the trail also makes people who use the trail feel safer as more people would use it more frequently.

Below are additional images from the meeting.

Concept art
Image: Nelson Byrd Woltz
Potential trail and connector cross-sections
Image: Nelson Byrd Woltz
Cafe and MBT Connector Concept Art
Image Nelson Byrd Woltz
Construction could begin in next two years, but no firm date was announced.