Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Out and About: North of Massachusetts, Part II

Part I, from yesterday. Part II, from today:

Retail is often the most visible measure of vitality (if not the most accurate) of a mixed use neighborhood. Residential can be hidden or low key, office space only shows itself during the daylight hours and nite life spots are often dark on weekdays and even some weeknights. But retail is pretty easy to eyeball. Either it's there or it's not.

The retail collection in NoMa is eclectic, but fitting for an area with more workers than residents. TD Bank, Potbelly, and Tynan Coffee & Tea recently opened. A small strip of retail including Five Guys and Pound Coffee is located across from the Holiday Inn Marriot Courtyard. These are all retail options that can serve residents and tourists, but also feed a growing office worker contingent. 1,900 DOJ workers just moved in and 1,400 GSA employees are moving in as we speak.

Harris Teeter is opening a grocery this week, a CVS is opening in January and NoMa's first white tablecloth sit down restaurant is scheduled to open in April inside the new Hilton Hotel. That is a lightening fast opening schedule for the next six months. I guess I wonder who will patronize the businesses until a critical mass of residents move in. There are obviously residential areas right across North Capitol St, NY Ave and the other side of the rail tracks, but at what point is it worth actually coming into NoMa for those residents. Potbelly probably won't do it, but perhaps having Harris Teeter as an anchor will help bring nearby residents to the area and the other businesses (Tynan, TD Bank, Pound) will start get regular use from non-office workers. And Walmart --still unbelievably-- has very early plans for 801 New Jersey Ave NW. For all the new construction though, there has to be more than Potbelly's, CVS and a few dry cleaners in order for NoMa to be considered a destination.

I hope there are places that normal people can live in this neighborhood. The limited new residential projects price out anyone in my salary range and probably the next tax bracket up, too. Really a shame. I guess that's my real hope for this neighborhood. That it can be unique as a tightly knit, very planned, vibrant community, but also that it can be a place that will create options for more than just the wealthy. More on NoMa as it develops, on paper and on the ground. And more photos!

Constitution Square

ATF HQ and NY Ave Metro

Public seating; a nice touch

Looking north on 1st St NE

Office with retail, future Hilton on the right

Archstone's 469 unit apartment building underway

Future NPR site

Constitution Square