Washington Post: A D.C. neighborhood loses a condo building, gains its first official park

D.C. is considered among the best cities in the country for parks, with more than 20 percent of land in city bounds designated as park land. But NoMa — a D.C. neighborhood near Union Station now teeming with apartment buildings — doesn’t have any official parks. Read more.

NEW YORK – Julian Hunt went to see the High Line Park in New York City’s West Side before it was even open.

Hunt, a D.C. architect, made the trip as part of a painstaking labor of love. For the better part of a decade, he has been attempting to convert a series of abandoned concrete tunnels beneath Dupont Circle, where streetcars once rumbled, into a menagerie of art galleries, performance space, cafes and exhibitions.


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The goal of bridges is to span across rivers or valleys, streets or highways, rail yards or railroad tracks. Essentially a structurally supported deck, a bridge is a connector enabling movement between whatever the bridge connects. But a few bridges achieve another goal: If the bridging deck supports activities and structures, it is a destination as well as a connector.


With sufficient length and width, a bridge can become in effect built land, a place for residential, commercial and recreational development, a “reconstituted ground plane” in architectural parlance.

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Unusually bucolic in comparison to other major cities, Washington has many neighborhoods that border parks or rivers. NoMa, the emerging mixed-use district whose name stands for “north of Massachusetts Avenue,” is a little different. The area’s principal tributary is the track bed that curves north from Union Station, carrying Amtrak, MARC and Metro trains.


Within NoMa are four streets that pass under the rail lines between First and Third streets NE: Florida Avenue and K, L and M streets. On the west side are mostly new residential and office buildings, including NPR’s headquarters; the east side is more residential, but is home to Gallaudet University and the rapidly redeveloping Union Market area.

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Developers and planners of the District’s NoMa neighborhood, behind Union Station, are enjoying an incredible wave of construction but have long wrung their hands over the area’s lack of green space.

Officials from the District government and the NoMa Business Improvement District have looked for ways of accumulating enough land to build a large central park. But with so much of the neighborhood already pegged for development, the BID’s new president, Robin-Eve Jasper, decided to push for a network of smaller places for public gatherings, dog walks, relaxation, playgrounds and limited recreation.

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