East Side News

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Concept sketch plan for the Exchange. Image: ULI Washington Technical Assistance Panel Report Virtual Circle 2019

Judgment of Solomon Comes to NoMa

It’s clear as day to anyone who hasn’t been to the area north of Massachusetts Avenue in the last five years that the neighborhood now known as NoMa has increased quite a bit in population. As it turns out, it’s increased so much that the District must create a voting precinct, for the first time in more than a decade.

The DC Board of Elections has announced that it is considering splitting Precinct 83 in two, creating Precinct 144. According to the analysis, Precinct 83 is the largest in the city, with 9,377 registered voters as of the end of July. That’s 79% higher than the same time five years ago, when the precinct had 5,218 voters.

Not only is Precinct 83 the largest in the city, it also has an extremely high voter turnout. The turnout in last year’s general election was 52%, higher than the citywide average of 46%. In the 2016 election, it was just shy of 70%, five points higher than the average across the city.

The split would reduce Precinct 83 to just under 5,000 voters, and Precinct 144 would have roughly 4,000.

“This confirms something we’ve known for a while, that NoMa has become a place that several thousand people call home,” says NoMa Business Improvement District (BID) President Robin-Eve Jasper. “Our residents are actively engaged in building this community, and they will be more active in the District’s political life. We also see it as validation of the transition from vision to reality: NoMa is a thriving, mixed-use, real neighborhood.”

 

Dave Thomas Out, “the Exchange” In

Never has there been more excitement about a dangerous traffic interchange and a fast-food restaurant. When Mayor Bowser announced in her presentation of the fiscal year 2020 budget that she was reserving $35 million for the improvement of the unlovingly called “Dave Thomas Circle,” residents were thrilled to think of the possibilities. Now they have been outlined in a report by Urban Land Institute Washington’s Technical Assistance Panel (TAP). This report will be the foundational plan as the city moves to secure an oddly placed Wendy’s.

The TAP was convened by the Urban Land Institute and the NoMa BID to study six possible concepts for the circle once the Wendy’s is no more. Those concepts came from a 2013 study of the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) about the feasibility of removing the restaurant and rerouting the pedestrian and car traffic. Ultimately, the TAP decided that “Concept 6” was the safest and most efficient of the solutions. The report, released this month, outlines the implementation of Concept 6 and what it would mean for the thousands who travel through there every day.

Prior to brainstorming the design recommendations, the TAP team toured Dave Thomas Circle in order to experience its flow, or lack thereof, firsthand. They also worked with neighborhood stakeholders, were briefed by the NoMa BID and DDOT and interviewed members of multiple stakeholder organizations including the Eckington Civic Association, NoMa/H Street Civic Association, Advisory Neighborhood Commissions 6C and 5E, North Capitol Main Street, Pathways to Housing DC, Gallaudet University, JBG Smith, Edens, DC Office of Planning, General Services Administration and local business owners from the surrounding neighborhoods.

Panelists grouped the analysis and recommendations under four categories: framing principles, neighborhood context and economic development, safety and connectivity and open space design. They also proposed next steps and short-term priorities toward the progress of the design process.

They decided that the word “circle” wasn’t a helpful moniker. They coined the term “the Exchange” as an example of potential branding, particularly considering the “X” formed by New York and Florida Avenues.

According to the report, “the Panel noted that many successful hubs serve as a place of exchange (whether commercial, informational, or social), and improved linkages between the growing NoMa and Eckington communities are important objectives.” The panel also suggested keeping the same branding that the NoMa BID has been using to distinguish the neighborhood – bright colors and an emphasis on artwork.

“The NoMa and Eckington communities are very excited about working with DDOT to make this a safe and welcoming place of connection for neighbors and a terrific gateway to downtown DC,” says Jasper, president of the NoMa BID and the Parks Foundation. “The BID reached out to Urban Land Institute Washington about a TAP as a way to bring fresh, independent eyes and ideas to what the improved ‘virtual circle’ could offer.”

DDOT will ultimately have the responsibility of implementing Concept 6, likely with continued significant input from the BID. DDOT has stated this project can be completed by 2022.

 

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: taylor@midcitydcnews.com; @rtaylorb.