M Street Underpass

Plans are moving forward for the dramatic transformation of the M Street underpass in NoMa into a light-filled passageway awash with countless points of light raining down from its ceiling. The NoMa Parks Foundation selected Thurlow Small Architecture + NIO architects to design the installation for the “M Street Underpass Art Park.” M.C. Dean is serving as contractor. Sidewalks will be closed one at a time, beginning with the south side. Please cross safely using the crosswalks on either end of the underpass to cross to the open side and pass safely. M Street will not be closed during construction to vehicular traffic. Access to the Metropolitan Branch Trail and Metro Station entrance will remain throughout construction. Construction will resume in January 2017.

Please click here to view the presentation of the design of the M Street underpass.

NIO architecten hail from the Netherlands and Thurlow Small Architecture is based in California. NIO architecten has completed more than 10 underpasses in the last 14 years and is well versed in their unique technical challenges, as well as their remarkable aesthetic possibilities. Thurlow Small Architecture is an architecture and urban design services firm that has worked locally and internationally on the planning and development of parks, downtown placemaking, and public infrastructure. The two firms have worked together over the past 15 years on infrastructure and public realm projects. Their construction partner, M.C. Dean, is the nation’s premiere electrical design-build and systems integration firm for complex, mission-critical organizations.

“Rain,” the M Street installation, features cascading LED lights hung inside thousands of polycarbonate tubes. “Our tunnel proposal for NoMa does what all good urban parks do: it offers a moment of openness, a space to breathe, and a place where thoughts can drift away,” according to a statement by the design team. The interior of the M Street underpass will look like a gentle rain with subtle moving lights — and its dark ceiling will turn into a glowing field of light that moves and flows as people move through the space.



  • The sidewalk on the south side of M Street will be completely blocked off with fencing. The fence will not prohibit access to the bike-repair station next to the Metropolitan Branch Trail ramp.
  • The sidewalk on the north side of M Street will be partially blocked along the wall with fencing. A pedestrian/bicycle passageway will remain open, and access to the Capital Bikeshare station in the underpass will continue.
  • “Sidewalk closed” signs will be installed on both sides of the underpass to alert cyclists.
  • The Capital Bikeshare station has been temporarily relocated to the southwest corner of 3rd and M streets NE, next to Uline Arena.
  • Upon completion of the south side, the sidewalk will be partially re-opened, and the north side will be blocked off in order to safely complete construction.

Anticipated completion: 2018.

In the News: 

Curbed DCNoMa’s ‘art parks’ expected to finish construction by April (Jan. 1, 2018)

Read more news stories about the M Street underpass art park.