Dupont Underground Signs Lease With D.C. for Abandoned Trolley Station

Photo via Dupont Underground

Could be the biggest thing after the proposed 11th Street Bridge elevated park.

From a press release:

The nonprofit Arts Coalition for the Dupont Underground (ACDU) announced today that it has signed a 66-month lease with the District of Columbia’s Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development (DMPED) for an abandoned 75,000-s.f. former trolley station below the streets of Dupont Circle, in the District’s Northwest quadrant.

The ACDU also announced today the launch of a crowdfunding campaign for the project on the Fundable platform:

Founded by architect Julian Hunt, co-principal of Hunt Laudi Studio, a D.C.-based architecture and urban design firm, the ACDU has been negotiating with DMPED for the lease since the group won a 2010 RFP from the city to redevelop the space. Hunt, who moved to the District in the mid-1990s and has been working to reopen the platforms and tunnels for more than a decade, was inspired by the years he spent living and working in Barcelona, where architects and artists have played a crucial role in shaping that city’s physical and cultural growth.

“I didn’t find the same kind of energy and conversation going on here,” said Hunt. “My first effort was to launch a critical journal, but when I discovered the old trolley station, I realized that I had stumbled onto a compelling, vital place to make something happen right below one of the District’s iconic public spaces.”

The tunnels, built along with the Connecticut Avenue underpass, opened in 1949 and closed in 1963, when the city’s streetcar system was shut down. Other than designation as a fallout shelter in the late 1960s and hosting a short-lived food court on the west platform in the mid-1990s, the space — which the group calls the the Dupont Underground — has remained empty.

The nonprofit will focus initial efforts on transforming the east platform. “The plan is to clean up the space, then open it up to the public,” said Hunt. “We want to demonstrate what uses are best suited for the long-term.”

The ACDU is among the first U.S. cultural groups to use “destination crowdfunding” for development. It has partnered with District-based Destination Crowd Capital (DCC) to assist the nonprofit in this process, as well as to generate strategies for long-term investment and development.

DCC helps businesses raise capital, conduct market research and develop a loyal customer base, and establish grassroots marketing. The company was co-founded by Scott Wayne, an international destination development expert, and Scott Popma, an intellectual property attorney and expert on crowdfunding.

In addition to activating the space through art- and design-related events, public performances and other gatherings, as well as temporary commercial uses, the ACDU will also be working on long-term plans to permanently redevelop all 75,000 square feet as a mixed-use cultural destination. To that end, it has hired Patrick P. Smith, a development specialist who has studied the space, as director of real estate development. The ACDU will add more staff, including an arts and programming director, in the months ahead.

“The next five years will be a dynamic time of showcasing new artists and designers, new technologies, and the exciting possibilities this space presents,” said Hunt. “We see the Dupont Underground providing cultural and economic benefits to Dupont Circle and to the District of Columbia.”

11 Comment

  • “Could be the biggest thing…” Love that enthusiasm! It could indeed be an interesting space, but we have been here before. A few times, I think.

  • DMPED is a great acronym

  • Blithe

    This is an interesting, conveniently located space. I hope that someone can figure out what to do with it to make it accessible and inviting. The food court was uninspiring — and not very compelling in a neighborhood that already has lots of restaurants and the outdoor public space of Dupont Circle above ground. The goal of turning this into an arts-related space is one that I would welcome. I hope that they can pull it off!

  • They could make it something like the Lowline project in New York. Like the Highline, but an underground park. The plans I’ve seen for that look super cool.

  • I just don’t see how something like this can succeed. I don’t think people are much interested in artificially lit, dank, underground spaces. They tried in late 90s (?), and it just wasn’t appealing. I work in Crystal City. Lots of underground spaces that they try to decorate with art and new lighting, but also lots of “space for lease” signs.

  • Music venue please! Not a lot of great underground music spots it seems since Warehouse loft shut down… DC needs a good rave cave!!

    • Imagine if DC converted one of the underground caverns at McMillan Park into an underground music venue?
      The acoustics are supposed to be spectacular and when it was first built it was described as the caves of a thousand imps. This was because sounds would move around the chambers and bounce from wall to wall and the echos would slowly move through the caverns.

  • We call it the Super Creepy Underground Clonk You on the Head from Behind Museum

  • Let’s hope someone with vision takes this on. It’s a great space but will take something special to get joe shmoe down there and let’s admit it, DC is filling up with shmoes who don’t want anything unfamiliar.

  • This could be a great place. There are a number of concepts around the world for places like this that are successful. However, the really amazing underground space in DC is McMillan Park. Acres of underground caverns with soaring ceilings which could be turned into so many things. Too bad DC is planning to demolish McMillan Park, sell it to developers for cheap and turn it into office buildings and condos. Our city leaders have no vision and they just give this land away to the developers who give money to their campaigns. Sad…

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