Dupont Underground – Can’t Freaking Wait


Dupont Underground has the potential to be truly epic. This new paint job/tease is already getting me psyched. For those not familiar – from their website:

To revitalize the abandoned trolley station beneath Dupont Circle for presenting, producing, and promoting cutting-edge arts, architecture, design, and creative endeavors.

To establish a cultural destination in the nation’s capital that partners with emerging voices in contemporary arts and architecture; encourages public participation, education, and engagement; and leverages development of the Dupont Underground as a catalytic force for the city in the 21st century.

The Dupont Underground is transforming a forgotten space beneath Washington, D.C.’s iconic Dupont Circle into a cultural destination.

Opened in 1949 as a trolley station, 75,000 s.f. of underground platforms and tunnels were closed off in 1962, when the city’s streetcar system shut down. Other than designation as fallout shelter in the late 1960s and hosting a short-lived food court on the west platform in the mid-1990s, the space has remained empty. Until now.

In late 2014, the Dupont Underground signed a five-year lease with the District for the entire space. Now we are working to activate about one-third of it — the east platform, plus some of the tunnel space — to demonstrate what uses are best suited for the long-term buildout of all 75,000 s.f. Over the next five years we plan on activating the space in many ways:

art & design exhibitions
public arts performances
community events
educational events
pop-up retail & dining
creative economy incubators
demonstrations of emerging technologies
film shoots & commercial photography
rental space for private events

In addition, we will also be working on long-term plans to permanently redevelop all 75,000 square feet as a mixed-use cultural destination. Our objectives for the space:

Create a unique, centrally located venue for exhibitions and events.
Provide a democratic space for community groups, educators, and entrepreneurs.
Develop an institution that brings wider attention to the District’s arts and design culture.
Strengthen the social networks that patronize the arts and inform business interests in the city, the region, and across the nation.
Return a long-abandoned space back to the public realm.”


Across from the closing July 18th Books a Millon:


22 Comment

  • Definitely exciting. Dupont’s been dying a slow death and could certainly use something like this to revitalize the neighborhood!

  • justinbc

    I really hope they’re able to get this accomplished. I can only imagine the nightmare inspections, permitting, approval, etc involved with doing a project underground in a high profile neighborhood.

  • pcat

    This would be a nice way to try to revitalize Dupont but I highly doubt that it will succeed.

  • I hope they focus more on food than it sounds like they will. Food makes people come to a place.

    • They tried making it a food court a few years back and it was a disaster.

      • Well, “food court” sounds like mall food which means bad Chinese food and some sort of wrap place. Definitely a sad pizza place.
        Hope that the food is more exciting that the classic food court fare… pop ups, different cuisines, etc.

  • I want to like this, but now that I have a metro commute I can’t imagine wanting to voluntarily spend any more time underground.

  • samanda_bynes

    this gonna be dope if it does come through.

  • Maybe there is more interest than there was 20 years ago, but probably not considering Dupont circle is no longer the ‘it’ spot. Hopefully they remember ventilation this time around. The previous version of the same thing made a lot of people lightheaded.

  • Anyone know if they’re planning to do private rentals of the space? This could be an awesome event space…

  • Tangentially related, I saw something about a farming operation having taken over an old bomb shelter 10 stories beneath London. It’s kind of brilliant: no temperature fluctuations, or damaging winds/ storms, and most importantly, no need for pesticide.
    So much science fiction coming true…

  • “You are transit space, and unto transit space you shall return.”

    Now taking bets on number of years until we make this a transit [bus] tunnel, its original and rightful use.

    • It would be difficult as the Connecticut ave underpass cuts through where part of the street car tunnel used to be.

  • It’s not very fair to compare this to what was done 20 years ago. “Dupont Down Under” was a joke of an operation. Just do a search on it and you’ll find some interesting history. This is the concerted effort of a lot of talented people. It’s still going to be tough but there is a lot of potential for the right applications. I think it’s great that they have pushed through this far. As a neighbor, I hope to also get involved at some level as it moves forward. It’s a unique project and I would love it see it take hold.

  • Hopefully this is a great thing – lots of work has gone in to it. Exciting!

  • Blithe

    I really hope that this does well. It’s a wonderful space — for something, but the dismal food court wasn’t it. Fingers crossed that the laudable goal of having a mixed-use cultural destination spot is something that they developers are actually able to pull off. Many people, like me, will only go once — unless there are good reasons to go back again. Many more people won’t go at all — unless there’s enough positive buzz to pull them. This update is encouraging!

  • Given that a couple projects there have failed spectacularly and the above ground stuff N of the Circle has seen a lot of turnover, I don’t see what the exuberance is about. Just because you have some unused space, doesn’t mean anyone will successfully use it.

    To draw an analogy, Atlanta’s much bigger Underground Atlanta has gone bankrupt at least 3 times. . It has had different character (festival marketplace, after hours entertainment, etc.) and all have failed. It’s apparently up for yet another facelift. It is in a potentially good location (where the Atlanta version of Metro converges), near a lot of downtown office workers, although also near a lot of homeless. Still if you can’t capitalize on a big underground, a little one in annoying traffic circle isn’t necessarily going to fare any better.

  • Color me skeptical. I can already do all of these things ABOVE ground. In my opinion this will only succeed if they can offer something different. Union Market did that. So did Yards Park. That’s why people travel out of their way to go to those places.

  • That smell in the air is due to all the historic preservation people crapping their depends when they saw all the red paint defacing “historic abandoned transportation infrastructure.”

    • Actually, the Dupont Underground received an enthusiastic thumbs up from the Dupont Circle Conservancy and the local HPRB person regarding painting the entrance.

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