Best Real Estate Idea That Could Fail Miserably: The Dupont Underground

  • December 20th 2010

by UrbanTurf Staff

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UrbanTurf is taking a week-long look back at the best that DC’s residential real estate market had to offer in 2010. From the best deals to the best renovations to, of course, the best listings, we believe we have sussed out the cream of the crop.

In mid-October, the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development (DCMPED) presented plans for what will become the Dupont Underground. The eight-block long, 100,000 square-foot space that runs under Dupont Circle has been abandoned for decades, except for a brief experiment to turn the space into a food court in the mid-1990s.

Best Real Estate Idea That Could Fail Miserably: The Dupont Underground: Figure 1
Dupont Underground. Photo courtesy of The Arts Coalition of the Dupont Underground

The plans that DCMPED unveiled two months ago included an initial phase that will consist of 20,000 square feet of gallery space and 20,000 square feet of concession space, the latter which could include a restaurant, wine bar, and cafe. However, the news of that night that had many in the audience saying “Come again?” was that developers expected that pending leases with a high-end restaurateur and a winery of some sort could help enable a loan to cover three-fourths of the phase one construction costs.

While the resurrection of the long-empty space below the circle and the opening of a winery would likely be cheered on by many in the city, the colossal failure of past attempts at the Dupont Underground does not bode well.

In 1995, the space below the circle opened as Dupont Down Under, a 12-tenant project that largely consisted of a food court with establishments like Sbarro Pizza. Problems ranging from unfinished construction to broken air conditioners plagued the project, and unbeknownst to the city, Geary Stephen Simon, the head of the effort, had been convicted at least three times of various business crimes. In September 1996, the city evicted Stephen Simon and Dupont Down Under was officially deemed a failure.

Developers have a completion timeline of between two and three years for the first phase of the Dupont Underground. So, by sometime in 2013, you could be sipping on a Dupont Pinot Noir. Or you could be listening to a joke where the punchline is Dupont Underground.

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This article originally published at https://dc.urbanturf.com/articles/blog/best_real_estate_idea_that_could_fail_miserably_the_dupont_underground/2781.

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