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NoMa gets its first-ever park this Saturday

Curbed logo Curbed 11/15/2018 Edward Russell
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Say hello to Swampoodle Park. Yes, it’s dog-friendly

D.C.’s booming NoMa neighborhood will open its inaugural park on Nov. 17. Located on an 8,000-square-foot plot at the corner of 3rd and L streets NE, Swampoodle Park will feature amenities for people and pups of all sorts, including a vertical climbing structure for children, dedicated space for dogs, and curved benches.

The park has been years in the making and is the result of a public-private partnership between the District and the NoMa Parks Foundation, an affiliate of the NoMa Business Improvement District (BID). In 2015, the foundation bought the land from a private developer for $3.2 million, using money from a $50 million city grant. The park abuts the Loree Grande development and will be maintained by the D.C. Department of Parks and Recreation.

A jungle gym-like apparatus by Dutch design firm Carve dominates the space. It is the first such “wall-holla” to be installed in a D.C. park, and the sixth to be placed in North America, according to the NoMa Parks Foundation. A turfed dog park lies behind the structure.

The “Swampoodle” moniker comes from a little-known page of D.C. history. In the mid-1800s, the neighborhood’s then-predominantly working-class Irish residents gave it this nickname for the swampy and puddle-riddled ground that followed the frequent floods of nearby Tiber Creek. (The creek has since disappeared.)

The NoMa BID began a lengthy community-outreach process for the park in early 2016. BID President Robin-Eve Jasper, a former District buildings official, says the feedback generated three “jobs,” or priority areas, for the space: dogs, kids, and relaxation. Then, the foundation presented three designs by D.C.-based landscape architects Lee and Associates to residents.

After the design was finalized, the BID solicited ideas for what to name the park. “Swampoodle” was unveiled late last year. Jasper says the outreach included about 10,000 “touches” of input from community meetings, online polls, and mailers. “We are uniquely community-driven on this front,” she adds.

a large building

Initially, the park planners had hoped to open Swampoodle by the end of 2017. The date was pushed back to early 2018, before being again delayed until this fall as the planners faced one hiccup after another. For one thing, the dog turf had to be re-installed. Jasper calls the original target date “aspirational,” adding that the planners and their contractor, Blue Skye Construction, underestimated aspects of the required construction work, from the phasing to the dog turf.

Part of the reason a green space has not opened sooner in NoMa is that, years ago, a park was left out of the 358-acre blueprint for the neighborhood. Lawmakers aimed to rectify this oversight in 2013, when they budgeted the $50 million grant for the BID.

“Good things take time,” says Lindsay Zoeller, a board member of neighborhood group Friends of NoMa Dogs, which had advocated for a formal dog park and will help maintain Swampoodle. “And delays always happen in construction.”

a close up of a metal fence

Other placemaking projects are also emerging in NoMa. A public art installation called “Rain” recently débuted in an underpass on M Street NE, and a two-acre green space named Tanner Park is under development. The latter will be adjacent to the Metropolitan Branch Trail near R Street NE and is scheduled to open by early 2020.

But now, more than a decade after development in the neighborhood took off with the opening of the NoMa–Gallaudet Metro station in 2004, NoMa will finally have a proper park. It is one of the fastest-growing neighborhoods in the District and is expected to rival Navy Yard in density when fully built out.

“I think this can be a little jewel,” Jasper said of Swampoodle at a 2016 community meeting.

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