Ivy City, one of the DC’s fastest evolving neighborhoods, has gained popularity for its trendy distilleries and Michelin-starred restaurant. But soon, it may also become a destination for urban families as well. DC residents Molly Nizhnikov and Rachel Lubin, both working mothers of two young girls, have created the Lane: a massive “family social club” that’s slated to open this winter. The 7,880-square foot space will include chaperoned play areas, soft spaces for crawlers, an all-day cafe, and lots of family programming—all designed with adults and kids in mind.
The idea came about when Nizhnikov, a former tech consultant, and Lubin, a business developer at Framebridge, were on their first maternity leaves around the same time.
“The big idea is that your whole life changes so much. There’s a natural tension everyone feels—wanting to be the best parent, but also wanting to maintain a sense of self,” Nizhnikov says. “Finding spaces that make everyone happy in the city is a hard thing. As much as you try and make a beer garden fun for kids, ultimately you’re in other people’s way.”
Instead of heading to places in the family-friendly suburbs, the duo sought to create an urban alternative—and one that still had touches like ample, affordable parking (there’s a massive lot across the street) and surrounding shops like Mom’s Organic, T.J. Maxx, and Target for household errands. Once inside the Lane, families will find plenty of space, too. The first floor features an open layout with lots of room to run, creative play structures, a chalk art wall, and a ball pit with a built-in surround couch. A connected mezzanine will boast a long slide and climbing wall. Play areas will be chaperoned by “lifeguards”—staff members who’re trained to keep a watchful eye and also lead activities like story time, Lego building, and drum circles. The lifeguards are also in the mix so parents can enjoy some downtime together.
A soft play area for babies and crawlers flanks the all-day cafe so adults can caffeinate while sticking nearby. The menu will offer breakfast items, pastries, sandwiches, salads, on-the-go snacks, and “big and little” versions of dishes like grilled cheese or meat-and-cheese plates. To drink: everything from juice boxes to beer and wine.
The Lane will also have a full spectrum of events, including indoor and outdoor movie nights—there’s a large roof deck for balmy evenings—music classes, and pumpkin carving. Some of the programming will also be geared towards adults, such as nutritional cooking classes that can be held in the second-floor kitchen. The duo say they were inspired by businesses and spaces specifically geared towards families in Europe and Australia for the concept.
“The US hasn’t adjusted to the idea of a dual income family that spends leisure time together,” says Lubin. “It’s ‘you’re going to do something for the kids, and then the parents will do something separate.’ The idea of leisure time together, and the infrastructure for it, isn’t there.”
As for fees, the Lane will offer several different membership options as well as drop-in passes that start at $17 for a child’s two-hour stay, or $22 for all-day (adult chaperones are free, and the price drops for additional children). Month-to-month memberships will start with an opening monthly flat fee of $80 per family. There’s also a special maternity leave membership that’s $175 for three months (or $58/month).
“I remember being on maternity leave, trying to show up at a coffee shop where everyone is on a computer working. The baby starts crying and everyone is staring at you,” says Nizhnikov. “Here the baby can cry as much as they want, you can feed your baby any way you want to, and oh by the way, we have a lactation consultant on certain days that can answer your questions.”
The Lane. 1408 Okie St., NE.