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NoMa emerges elsewhere

At least there is an ocean separating SoHo in New York and Soho in London.

There isn’t the same expanse between NoMa and NoMa.

In Park City, as the North of Main district tries to turn itself into one of the city’s hotspots, marketers have dubbed the area NoMa, a play on the north of Main Street addresses.

But another neighborhood with similar ambitions to be a hip spot, this one in Washington, D.C., has adopted the same moniker, making at least two districts in America dubbed NoMa.

In Washington, NoMa stands for the North of Massachusetts Avenue, where the government and the private sector are investing tens of millions of dollars into redeveloping an area between the landmark Union Station, a busy shopping and transit hub, and downtown.

People involved in the two NoMa districts say there is little competition for the name between Park City and Washington and they do not foresee there being confusion or problems between the two.

They say there is enough room in the U.S. for two NoMa districts, especially since they are not seeking the same clientele. In Washington, the NoMa boosters, like those in NoMa in Park City, envision a neighborhood where people work and live, drawn by a mix of residences, retailers and offices.

"It’s got the right sort of feel. It earns the name NoMa," says Charles (Sandy) Wilkes, the chairman of a development and property management firm in Washington that works in the NoMa district there.

Wilkes projects between 7,000 and 8,000 people could move into new residences in NoMa over the next 15 years and he describes investments from the public and private sectors.

A public-private partnership put up $100 million to build a subway stop and eight leading developers, including his company, plan to build 20 million square feet of residences, office space and retailers in the next 15 years, Wilkes says. The square footage is expected to spread over between 50 and 60 buildings, some reaching as tall as 13 stories, according to Wilkes. Most of the construction will be new and the architecture will be modern.

"It certainly has a chance to be hip and trendy," Wilkes says.

In many cities in the U.S., especially big ones, marketers are dubbing similar districts with monikers that resemble SoHo, for South of Houston, in New York and NoMa. San Francisco has its SoMa neighborhood, short for South of Market, and Denver has fashioned the name LoDo from Lower Downtown.

The neighborhoods are portrayed as young and hip, with interesting places to live, work and shop. Lofts, coffee shops, exclusive restaurants and boutiques are hallmarks of the districts.

"There’s an attempt to brand this area of Washington," Wilkes says, arguing it is "crucial" to do so and that the NoMa name has "positive connotations" and is "very strategic, very smart."

In Park City, developer Rodman Jordan, who owns or controls large swaths of the NoMa district, is leading the efforts to turn the area into a similarly fashionable place, with lofts and interesting stores and restaurants.

There has been little progress so far, though, and Parkites generally see the district, which still is widely referred to as Prospector, as a neighborhood for more mundane tasks, with offices, grocery stores and just a smattering of the upscale Jordan envisions.

City Hall is considering a wide-ranging set of changes to the development rules in the district but the talks stalled in late 2006. There were worries from Parkites about allowing taller buildings in NoMa and the potential of drawing more traffic to a district where people already complain about streets like Bonanza Drive.

The Planning Commission is scheduled to revisit the changes as early as April 18. The Park City Council must consider the rules as well, once the lower panel makes a recommendation.

Jordan says he was unaware of the neighborhood in Washington until recently. He says there is no danger of the two NoMas competing, says people will not be confused and claims the Park City neighborhood has " an identity that speaks for itself."

"We arrived at our own branding without the knowledge of the one in Washington, D.C. There’s a lot of overlap with similar names across the country," Jordan says. "To have another NoMa in Washington is inconsequential. That’s my answer in a nutshell. It doesn’t matter."


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