One of Washington DC’s Greyhound Building’s at 1005 1st Street NE in the city’s NoMa (North of Massachusetts) neighborhood, a rapidly developing into the NoMa Business Improvement District that used to be a dead zone slightly more than a decade ago.
The station has been standing in that location since 1983 and it used to be a Trailways Bus Terminal before Greyhound moved their operations from the 1100 New York Avenue NW location, an Art Deco style building, to the then more modern 1st Street location in 1987 when Trailways ceased operations.The original architect of the NoMa Greyhound Terminal is Greer, Holmquist, and Chambers from Birmingham, Alabama.
View of the Greyhound Station north towards the iconic historic water tower atop One NoMa Station, a popular and well-marketed rehabilitation of a 1939 office building into Class A office space. Photo by Meagan Baco.
Because of the surge of development, the NoMa Greyhound Building was purchased by developers First Potomac Realty Trust based in Bethesda, MD, and Perseus Realty LLC based in Washington D.C. for just over $46 million dollars in August of 2011. Soon after Greyhound vacated the building and moved into the new Greyhound Terminal inside of Union Station’s new parking garage, on September 26th, 2012.
First Potomac Realty Trust paid 97% and Perseus Realty paid the remaining 3%, and through this joint venture they can build up to 712,000 square feet of office space on this 1.6 acre site. According to the Washington Business Journal
, they are developing the site with assistance from NoMa Business Improvement District. They plan to turn the Greyhound site into a large mixed-use residential and office building, like what much of the neighborhood has already become.
Recent large-scale mixed-use development in contrast to more historic buildings in the NoMa neighborhood; a common sight. This intersection is a couple of blocks away from the Greyhound Station on First Avenue. Photo by Meagan Baco.
The developers plan to set back their building from the street wall to allow a widening of L Street to construct a park in the median that will act as a public gathering place, that might serve to host farmer’s markets and public movies, and include a walkway with a staircase that will lead to the 2nd floor of retail in the new development. These walkways are often known as skywalks and we historically used to segregate shoppers from the grit and residents of the urban core, and can be seen in many commercial architectural designs from the 1950s through 1970s.
A Preservation/Reuse Model
As for the older Art Deco Greyhound Terminal
, with a confirmed Moderne Streamlined 1930′s look, at 1100 New York Avenue NW, the building was completed in 1940 by architect William Arrasmith of Louisville, who also designed more than 50 similar Greyhound Terminals in the 1930′s and 1940′s in other parts of the country.
The New York Avenue Terminal’s Art Deco architecture became almost an embarrassment to Downtown D.C.’s mean streets in the 1970′s, so the Terminal was completely boxed up with asbestos panels in the mid-1970s. By the mid-1980′s, the Greyhound Terminal had reached the end of it’s road as a transportation hub and the property was sold for around $21 million dollars in 1985. After Greyhound acquired rival Trailways in 1987, Greyhound moved their bus operations to the new Trailways Terminal at 1005 1st Street NE (a few short blocks behind Union Station), which is the building currently slated for demolition.
Art Deco bus station successfully integrated into new build, note the parallel curves and massing of the new building responding to historic architecture cues. Photo by Meagan Baco.
So led by Richard Longstreth of the Committee of 100 and Richard Striner of the Art Deco Society of Washington, with support from the DC Preservation League, a coalition of preservationists rallied in the early 1980′s to have this New York Avenue Terminal designated as a historic landmark. Their efforts were complicated by the fact that the original facade was completely covered by asbestos panels.
At first, the developers were only going to incorporate some of the Station’s facade into their new office building, but preservationists wanted the entire building saved. Finally in 1988, the developers and future owners of the office building agreed to a 10% decrease in office space in order to allow the entire former bus station to serve as an entrance way into their new building. The restored concourse, with new office utility opened in 1991 with an exhibit of the Terminal’s history.
Making a Case to Reuse the NoMa Greyhound Station
As for the recently abandoned NoMa Greyhound Bus Depot, I know the building isn’t old enough to be considered historic, but it is an important DC landmark in it’s own way and it is worth saving. It may not be charming in the same way that a beautiful old building is, but it still isn’t a terrible building, and it does have a lot of character. It looks like a fortress and it looks like an early 1980s version of a futuristic building, but it also has an old look to it. In other words, it looks cool.
Welcome to Philadelphia! A familiar sign of arrival in Greyhound Stations nationwide. Photo by the author.
Not only that, but the building looks similar in many ways to other Greyhound buildings that were built in other major cities (such as Philadelphia, Richmond, Miami, Denver, Los Angeles, etc) during the 1970s and 1980s, but each of those bus terminals look unique in just as many ways as they look similar. So if D.C.’s NoMa Bus Terminal gets demolished, it will put a huge dent in the character of DC that may be developing too fast and with no architectural homage to the historic city. This building is irreplaceable and I hope we can do something before it’s too late.
In the interest of sustainability and keeping building materials out of a landfill, it is a structurally sound building and it can last for many more years. I would like to see most of the structure preserved and used within the new development, because it could potentially have many great uses like what the reuse of the older bus depot on New York Avenue. The NoMa Greyhound Station looks interesting and it can look even nicer with a facelift, and there could potentially be many good alternative uses for it without tearing it down.
What do you think?
Mischa Joligard was born in Washington DC, and currently lives in Virginia. He works for Arlington Public Schools as an Extended Day Aid and Lunch Attendant. His recent and passionate interested in preservation was sparked by knowing that the NoMa Greyhound Bus Terminal was slated for demolition and he wanted to take some kind of action about it. When he was a little younger, he saw many decent looking buildings get torn down, and laments “all I did was complain without trying to do anything about it. However, this time I’m doing what I can to spread the word before it’s too late! Once this building is gone, it’s not replaceable, and it is definitely a building worth saving while there is still a chance.” Contact Mishca at firstname.lastname@example.org.