NoMa Parks Foundation Announces First Underpass Art Park Finalist

April 16, 2015

WASHINGTON, DC, April 16, 2015 — 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 is pleased to announce that Thurlow Small Architecture + NIO architects have been selected to design the installation for the “M Street Underpass Art Park.” M.C. Dean will serve as contractor, and construction is expected to begin in fall of 2015.

 A community meeting to introduce the design team and contractor, and to garner additional feedback on the concept and design, will be held April 27 (details below).

 “This is the first of four exciting transformations planned for NoMa’s underpasses,” said Charles “Sandy” Wilkes, Chairman of the NoMa Parks Foundation. “The goal is to turn what is now dark and somewhat foreboding into beautiful and inviting spaces.”

NIO architects hails from the Netherlands and Thurlow Small Architecture is based in Rhode Island. NIO architects 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 and a Certified Business Enterprise (CBE).

“Rain,” the M Street installation, is still in the conceptual design phase. The cascading drops of rain will be LED lights hung inside hundreds 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.

Community members are invited to meet the designers and construction team, learn more about the conceptual design and share their thoughts at a community meeting on Monday, April 27, from 6:30 to 8 PM in the Lobby Project, 1200 First Street, NE. This event is free and open to the public; RSVP here.

About the Underpass Competition

The NoMa Parks Foundation launched an international design competition in April 2014 to find artists to reimagine the four underpasses at Florida Avenue, L, M and K Streets, NE, and fill them with light and art. A distinguished jury narrowed 248 submissions from around the world into 10 finalist teams.  A community outreach process gathered important feedback, including more than 370 survey responses from community meetings and through an online survey. The M Street Underpass Art Park will be the first project to start construction.

The NoMa Underpass Art Parks are funded by a grant from the District of Columbia government to create parks and improve public spaces in NoMa. The NoMa Parks Foundation has been working in conjunction with the D.C. Department of General Services, the D.C. Department of Parks and Recreation, the District Department of the Environment, the District Department of Transportation, the Commission on Arts and Humanities, Amtrak, and WMATA on the NoMa Underpass Art Parks initiative. Construction is expected to start in fall 2015. Please stay tuned for future announcements in connection with the L, K and Florida Avenue underpasses, which were also included in the 2014 underpass design competition.

 About The NoMa Parks Foundation

The NoMa Parks Foundation was formed in 2012 to establish welcoming, sustainable, beautiful spaces where people can play, refresh and connect in NoMa, now and for generations to come.

The rapid transformation of NoMa into a true mixed-use, urban neighborhood has highlighted the importance of creating great parks and public spaces. More than 36,000 people live within 4/5 of a mile of First and M Streets, NE, and the population is projected to double in the next 10 years. However, publicly accessible parks, playgrounds, and plazas in the area are severely limited. Parks are urgently needed to serve the neighborhood’s residents, office workers, and visitors, while undeveloped land is becoming scarcer each year as development occurs on the remaining empty lots. The creation of refreshing, inviting parks and public spaces — before it is too late — will improve the lives of people in NoMa today and in the future. More about the NoMa Parks Foundation and its current activities and initiatives can be found at  You can sign up for the NoMa Parks Foundation newsletter as well. Follow us on Twitter @NoMaParksDC and like us on Facebook.  

About NoMa

NoMa is a vibrant, growing mixed-use neighborhood nestled among Union Station, the U.S. Capitol, Shaw, and the H Street, NE corridor in Washington, D.C. Already, NoMa contains more than 17.6 million SF of office, hotel, retail and residential space. With 22 LEED certified buildings, including 17 platinum and gold, NoMa offers the best work environments in the city. Each day, more than 92,000 people are out and about in the commercial core of NoMa. NoMa is home to 4,803 new apartments, and 44,000 people work here each day. NoMa is the most connected neighborhood in Washington, D.C., with unparalleled transportation access on Amtrak, VRE, MARC, two Red Line Metro stops, and easy vehicular access to Interstate 395 and Route 50. NoMa has a WalkScore of 92 and offers stellar biking opportunities, including the 8-mile Metropolitan Branch Trail. The NoMa BID organizes more than 50 free, award-winning community events each year, connecting more than 20,000 friends and neighbors. For more information about NoMa, visit and sign up for our bimonthly newsletter. Follow us on Twitter @NoMaBID and like us on Facebook.


For immediate release
News media contact:
Rachel Davis
[email protected]