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The Next Five Years and Beyond: The Plans for the Dupont Underground

by Lark Turner

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The station today.

After years of lobbying and negotiating with the DC government, the Arts Coalition for the Dupont Underground (ACDU) signed a 5.5-year lease on the subterranean former trolley station beneath Dupont Circle in December.

Shortly after, the group’s crowdfunding campaign raised more than the $50,000 goal it set to help jumpstart its plan to turn the space into something accessible to the public.

So what’s next for the space? There’s a short-term plan and a much more conceptual long-term one. Here’s a rundown of both as they stand now:

The Short Term Plan

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A rendering of a performance space in the Underground.

Right now, the basic plan is to clean up the space, which is currently filled with trash and covered in graffiti. Braulio Agnese, an ACDU board member, told UrbanTurf that the group is working with the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs and expects approval of its plans within a couple of months. Then, they’ll have to raise more money.

“We need money to renovate the space,” Agnese said. “We’re still developing budgets.”

The group will be turning the space into a blank canvas at first.

“It will pretty much be an open box,” he said. “The part the public will see most is the platform and a little bit of the tunnels. We need to bring that up to code, so that’s the construction we need to do, but then it’s not going to look a whole lot different than it does now.”

The group will rent out the space for performances, art installations, concerts and more, and hopes to generate revenue — and plenty of interest — in order to proceed with its long-term plans for the space.

“So the point is to speak to the kinds of things that we want to be doing long-term as an institution,” Agnese said. “We’ll later have to renegotiate the lease for the kinds of mixed-use tenants we want.”

The Long Term Plan

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A new rendering of what a Dupont Underground hotel room would look like. Courtesy of OPX.

Patrick Smith, the director of real estate development for the ACDU, has big ideas for the space in the long-term, though at the moment, they’re mostly conceptual.

Smith was brought onto the ACDU after floating plans to turn the space turned into a number of uses, including a winery, artist studios, a gallery, a fine arts storage space, a restaurant and — perhaps boldest of all — a micro-hotel with 40 (tiny) rooms.

In Smith’s original plan, the west side of the space would be reserved for the high-end fine arts storage. The hotel, restaurant, art gallery, theater and café would be clustered around the most usable space in the Underground, under the circle itself, which offers up about 500 feet of developable space on either side. The eastern end would be used as artist studios.

“The use of the space — it’s something so new,” an excited Smith told UrbanTurf last year. “(The underground micro-hotel) would be the first in the country.”

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The ACDU is now using Smith’s plans as a model to build from as it studies what uses will be feasible for the space, Agnese said. The group would have to clear major hurdles to make some of those planned uses a reality, including going before the Historic Preservation Review Board, the Board of Zoning Adjustment, the Dupont Circle Conservancy, the Commission of Fine Arts and likely other agencies to acquire needed approvals and variances.

“At the moment, all of this is theoretical,” Agnese said. “What the final proposal will bring to the city, we’re not sure. Underground agriculture, a spa, there’s a whole bunch on the table. We haven’t figured out what the final mix will be.”

This article originally published at http://dc.urbanturf.com/articles/blog/the_next_five_years_and_beyond_the_plans_for_the_dupont_underground/9613

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