Nerds in NoMa
DC is a city that embraces its undeniable nerdiness. As the nation’s capital, DC is a city full of smart and interested people, and the NoMa Business Improvement District (BID) has no trouble capitalizing on resident’s desire to learn. For the fifth year in a row, the BID is hosting its “Nerds in NoMa” series, aimed to educate and excite audience members about different issues each month.
Although advertised as a speaker series, the panel format and livingroom-like setting of the lobby of 1200 First St NE allow for a more free-flowing discussion than the speaker-at-podium style. The first installment of the series was titled “My Side Hustle, My Self: Dreaming and Doing It in DC.” Clearly targeting the go-getter spirit of the NoMa neighbors, panelists discussed how to capitalize and monetize one’s, for lack of a better word, hobbies. The topic fit perfectly in the freelancing age, and panelists were able to discuss their successes and give advice to those looking for a different path.
Chris Maier, founder of Little Salon, moderated the panel. “The people on this panel – some of the real innovators in DC’s creative economy – took us behind the curtain to understand not only what’s great about pursuing your passions, but also what’s challenging about it, and what’s surprising, and what you can do to put yourself in the best position to succeed. I’m pretty sure this was the kind of conversation that the audience was hoping for,” explained Maier. “Not only did the audience get to hear stories and advice from an incredible slate of entrepreneurs in DC’s creative economy, but I think the panelists themselves learned a lot from each other.”
The panel also included artist and educator Holly Bass, The Lemon Collective DC co-founder Holley Simmons, co-founder of Pop Wed Co. Maggie Winters-Gaudaen and Nicole Crowder, founder of Nicole Crowder Upholstery. The fact that the panel was all-female was not lost on the audience.
The panel topics vary but seem to skew toward a young adult crowd, the same contingent NoMa is hoping to lure with high-rise, high-amenity apartments. The event is held every second Tuesday from January through April. “For five years now, the NoMa BID has challenged DCs movers, shakers and just plain curious with conversations on an eclectic group of topics,” said BID President Robin-Eve Jasper. “The community’s strong, enduring engagement with Nerds in NoMa is a testament to the smart and inquisitive nature of folks in and around NoMa. I’m proud to be part of this young and thoughtful neighborhood.”
February’s topic is “Love Me Tinder: Dating in the Digital Age.” “I’m really happy Nerds in NoMa is having a discussion on romance in the digital era, because a lot has changed in the dating world even just in the past five years,” explained upcoming panelist Carl Pierre. “I think it’s healthy to talk and challenge our perspectives on romance – and at the very least, this panel will illicit some hilariously awkward silences/and/or laughs.” Panelists include Jose Magana Salgado, storyteller at Story District’s “Sucker for Love” and “Worst Date Ever”; Ashlee Nikole, founder of LezLink MatchMaking app and Bryan Van Den Oever, co-owner of Red Bear Brewing, DC’s first all LGBT-run brewery.
New Blood at the Uline
Fresh meat, or rather beer, is moving into Uline Arena. Red Bear Brewing Company is opening a tap room in the large, rapidly developing building that once saw the Beatles perform their first DC concert.
Red Bear joins a growing number of companies already using the new space, even before the entire building’s renovation is completed. Co-founder Bryan Van Den Oever explained why they chose NoMa and the Uline as their first home. After searching for over a year for a space that would suite their needs, the perfect spot opened in the once industrial space that is being developed by Douglas Development. They were looking not just for a large enough space but for a location that was in the center of life, unlike many of the production-based breweries that have been popping up all over Northeast. Since Red Bear will be a tap room and not a production house, the lively atmosphere and foot traffic of NoMa was a big draw.
“NoMa is becoming such a desirable place to live and it’s continuing to grow. You can see all the cranes in the sky,” explained Van Den Oever. The team was brought to DC by co-founder and brewer Simon Bee, who preceded them in moving to the District. Originally from Seattle, the rest of the team was convinced that DC was the right place for their first startup. Van Den Oever likes NoMa so much he also became a resident. “We can’t do this without the support of the community, and this is a great community.”
When asked if REI’s presence at the Uline had an impact on the Seattleites, he admitted it did bring a level of hometown feel. Red Bear is only the latest resident of the building, which is anchored by the outdoor retailer.
“We couldn’t feel prouder of playing a small part in NoMa’s historic revitalization. We are immensely grateful to our clients and this neighborhood and look forward to seeing where this adventure takes us,” said Dan Lorenz of Uline resident CycleBar, a high-end spin franchise. The venue is also home to Spaces NoMa, which offers rentable space to work in an office setting equipped with coffee, sandwiches and Wi-Fi.
Uline Arena has had many lives, morphing from a popular and historic concert space to a parking garage, to a blight on an up-and-coming neighborhood. Neighbors are hoping the new residents will bring life and more growth on the other side of the tracks.
Taylor Barden Golden is a real estate agent with The Stokes Group at McEnearney Associates Inc. A former Hill staffer, Taylor lives in Brentwood with her husband, two dogs and a cat. She’s always on the lookout for new places to explore and ways to spend time outside. Get in touch: firstname.lastname@example.org; @rtaylorb.