From Tom Hay
Architect Julian Hunt has grand plans for the former trolley tunnels that run under Connecticut Avenue and Dupont Circle NW.
Hunt, who lives in the Dupont Circle neighborhood, presented the vision of the non-profit Arts Coalition for Dupont Underground (ACDU) to the public on Wednesday night. ACDU was one of two respondents to a request for proposal issued by the Office the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development (DMPED) in March 2010.
The other submission, a winery, was deemed unresponsive to the specifications of the RFP, although ACDU may include space for them in the concessions area of their plans.
Right Team at Right Time
Hunt opened the presentation by saying he believes that the ACDU proposal has “cut the Gordian knot” on bringing the underground back to life. Indeed the Coalition has assembled an impressive team of developers, architects and contractors. Each group spoke of their credentials and dedication to the project. Among the notable projects on their resumes are The Phillips Collection, The Spy Museum and GALA Hispanic Theatre.
The tunnels have seen various attempts at revitalization. In the 1990s the space became a food court, but failed after a year. In recent years suggested uses for the space have included retail, a bike station and even a new home for adult-themed clubs that were displaced by Nationals Stadium.
The ACDU team hopes to make the Dupont Underground an internationally recognized arts venue.
The team also sees the revitalization as having a catalyzing effect in terms of elevating the profile of Dupont Circle and DC. Renderings of the space show stylish galleries displaying art as well as artist studios.
No Financing from DC Government
ACDU plans to raise funds through loans, philanthropy, fundraising and grants.
The first stage of the project would encompass 40,000 sq. feet and has a 2013 target date. A $10 million figure for that phase was suggested during the question and answer period. The second stage would cover the remaining 60,000 sq. feet and open two years later.
Their proposal does not include any funding from the DC Government. According to Jose Sousa, a project manager with the Deputy Mayor’s Office, the space is owned by the National Park Service and the District of Columbia has jurisdiction over sub-leases.
The public comment period will continue till the end of November. The Deputy Mayor’s office will then review the comments and further examine the viability of the project before reaching a decision and presenting it to the DC Council.