Given the NoMa Public Realm Design Plan’s strategy of creating a variety of public spaces as well as greater connectivity throughout the neighborhood, NPF invested in a collection of small projects. These projects approached NoMa’s spine of First Street NE as a “linear park” and sought to both direct private improvements and foster public improvements that would establish a safe and inviting public realm.
The NoMa Streetscape Guidelines, adopted in 2017, were developed by the Foundation in partnership with OP and DDOT, and with the support of Michael Vergason Landscape Architects (MVLA). The guidelines cover NoMa’s six primary streets, running north-south from K Street NE to N Street NE and east-west from North Capitol Street to 2nd Street NE and also apply to other streets in NoMa with similar right-of-way dimensions and characteristics.
They sought to fulfill the goal of the NoMa Public Realm Design Plan to transform each street into a linear park space by focusing on trees and plantings, a consistent palette of materials, and site furnishings. One focus of the guidelines was to encourage developers to provide adequate, aerated soil that would both promote the development of lush, healthy trees and also maximize stormwater retention. The recommended palette of materials for paving and furnishings ensures that NoMa’s sidewalks are durable, comfortable places that provide places to engage with colleagues, friends, and neighbors.
The Burnham Bench project, also designed by MVLA, was a complement to the Streetscape Guidelines. The benches serve to enhance the experience of NoMa residents and visitors and provide exemplars to be incorporated into future developments. By providing places for people to engage with one another or to rest, they also help serve the goal of improving connectivity in NoMa. Made of stone, the Burnham Benches are designed to match the appearance of the “Burnham Wall,” the massive stone wall that runs from Union Station through the NoMa neighborhood on either side of the elevated train tracks. A total of 16 Burnham Benches were installed at three locations in 2021 in a layout that was guided by DeafSpace Design guidelines developed by NoMa’s neighbor, Gallaudet University. In many of the locations, they filled a gap in public seating, which has been found to be critical for healthy and vibrant public spaces.
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