Dupont Underground, This Time With Art, Not Burgers
In the annals of bad ideas, the transformation of the abandoned old trolley station beneath Dupont Circle into a fast-food court back in 1995 was a championship Washington entry. The notion was that downtown workers might feel a deep need to leave the park and the surrounding blocks of eateries and shops to get their lunch instead in a dark tunnel.
To the surprise of no one except perhaps the developer and the city bureaucrats he managed to draw into his hare-brained scheme, Dupont Down Under died a quick and expensive death, followed by many years of litigation. Ever since, there have been occasional efforts to capitalize on the investment that developer Geary Simon made in transforming a trolley station that hadn't been used since 1962 into a food court. A 2003 notion to turn the site into a health club didn't work out. Nor did council member Jim Graham's proposal to use the space for the city's gay clubs that were put out of business when the District cleared out their Southeast neighborhood to build Nationals Park.
But now a group of architects and art gallery owners have come together to propose Dupont Underground, using the space for art installations, performances and art markets. The organizers seek a lease from the District and hope to raise the "relatively minor" investment they say would be necessary to put the plan into effect.
One of the organizers of the effort, Julian Hunt, is the District architect who has proposed building a deck over the portion of Connecticut Avenue that slopes down toward the Dupont Circle tunnel, instantly creating a grand pedestrian plaza and space for public amenities. The project is also supported by Warehouse Theater founder Paul Ruppert and Kim Ward, who runs the Washington Project for the Arts, as well as several other art scene figures.
Making some use of that big old space makes a lot of sense, and certainly Dupont has the foot traffic to justify an arts use. A program of events available to passersby without charge obviously has potential to actually draw people underground, but it's hard to imagine, especially in this economic climate, that many investors, or even the city, would want to pump any more money into that dark hole.
The main problem, as Dupont Down Under discovered, is that very few people see much reason to escape from the pleasant atmosphere of the circle itself, and the surrounding neighborhood is already chockablock with interesting food spots, galleries, bookstores and the like. Dupont is not as eclectic or alluring a neighborhood as it was before the virus of national chain stores infected the area, but it's still enough of a people magnet that the offerings had better be pretty terrific if you're going to lure people underground.
Would an arts space work down there? Would you go? Should the city just let the rats have the place and be done with it? Or is there some use of the space that really would draw a crowd?
By Marc Fisher |
October 8, 2008; 8:13 AM ET
Previous: Dueling Economists: Who Gets The $700 Billion? | Next: Should Warner Regret Not Going For The White House?
Please email us to report offensive comments.
Posted by: Karl | October 8, 2008 9:31 AM
Posted by: Rich | October 8, 2008 9:34 AM
Posted by: Alex B. | October 8, 2008 9:37 AM
Posted by: richard | October 8, 2008 9:49 AM
Posted by: DC Boy | October 8, 2008 9:56 AM
Posted by: Greg | October 8, 2008 10:00 AM
Posted by: DCMaven | October 8, 2008 10:10 AM
Posted by: what'shisname | October 8, 2008 10:30 AM
Posted by: another idea | October 8, 2008 10:50 AM
Posted by: Frank | October 8, 2008 11:01 AM
Posted by: Dupont Resident | October 8, 2008 11:01 AM
Posted by: Frank | October 8, 2008 11:10 AM
Posted by: Great Idea | October 8, 2008 11:12 AM
Posted by: JohnInDC | October 8, 2008 11:14 AM
Posted by: kurt.m. | October 8, 2008 11:45 AM
Posted by: SG | October 8, 2008 11:51 AM
Posted by: Andy | October 8, 2008 12:04 PM
Posted by: Rose | October 8, 2008 12:49 PM
Posted by: tslats | October 8, 2008 12:57 PM
Posted by: Stick | October 8, 2008 12:59 PM
Posted by: Roller | October 8, 2008 3:28 PM
Posted by: Ben | October 8, 2008 3:43 PM
Posted by: Mike Silverstein | October 8, 2008 7:50 PM
Posted by: echobeach | October 9, 2008 7:53 AM
Posted by: bowiemd1 | October 10, 2008 11:42 AM
The comments to this entry are closed.