Friday, February 12, 2010

Beneath Dupont, A Renaissance in the Making


The District could release a request for proposals (RFP) to reuse the Dupont Trolley Station by March. As a pre-RFP requirement, the office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development (DMPED) is seeking community input and preferences for use of the tunnels hidden under some of the District's hottest real estate; community input would be attached as an appendix to any RFP to provide guidelines for responses. Thanks to the snow delay, the ANC2B meeting for community input about the potential RFP was delayed from this week until next Wednesday, the 17th.

Those with a long memory or a penchant for random transit knowledge are probably familiar with the Trolley Station sitting dormant under Dupont Circle. For the rest of you, take note: there are two large tunnels running underneath Dupont Circle that, until 1963, served as a station for DC's widespread system of trolley's a.k.a. streetcars. According to sources familiar with the project, the pending RFP will likely be open to any type of use, hopefully encouraging some creative submissions from groups eager to lease the space from the District and reclaim the Dupont underground from the rodents and discarded drug paraphernalia currently there. The underground venue had a short life in the '90's, when it was expensively renovated with a tacky streetcar theme, a project that failed when patrons realized that Dupont Circle had restaurants above ground that didn't require a long walk in a poorly ventilated tunnel.

Why hasn't the District tried to find a use for this space sooner? The answer is that it did, but then got a lawsuit for its troubles, one that lasted long enough for (most) people to forget the tunnels existed. The RFP has come back to the forefront, thanks in part to the Arts Coalition for Dupont Underground, spearheaded by architect Julian Hunt and the Washington Project for the Arts. Along with several other arts groups and galleries in the area, the group proposes a new gallery space below Dupont along the P Street near many existing above-ground galleries. The Arts Coalition will be competing for the RFP when it is released, it is unclear who their competition might be.

The RFP will likely only be for a lease of the space, no land disposition, said sources familiar with the project. Though the District Department of Transportation does not have any plans to bring a streetcar to Dupont in the near future (20 years near future), an existing tunnel for a Connecticut or Massachusetts Avenue line would be a costly thing to give away, a fact the RFP is likely to keep in mind.

Washington DC real estate development news

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