DC Seeks Vision for Dupont Underground

Old Entrance by M.V. Jantzen

Decades after the trolley system was shut down at Dupont Circle, the city is still looking for a viable use for the abandoned underground space.  The last attempt was a food court, creatively named “Dupont Down Under”, however it failed miserably and was only open for a year.  In 2007 a proposal to create some adult strip clubs was circulated but not surprisingly it was shot down.

The Post is reporting that the city will be putting out a request for proposals next month to solicit possible uses for the 100,000 square foot space.  Council Member Jack Evans  (D-Ward 2) says, “It needs to be a destination place that people will come to.”  What a novel idea.

One group, the Arts Coalition for Dupont Underground, is proposing that the space be used for “an exhibition and event space for the arts community”.  The tunnels would be cleaned up and retrofitted with museum-quality lighting and would be a place to “take in avant-garde art shows and exhibits of experimental architecture.”

This doesn’t sound like a “destination place” unless it has an edge to it and is done in a “New York state of mind”.  All too often we see art projects around the city that lack what is needed for people around the world to say, “Wow, what are those people up to in DC?  Let’s go check it out.”  Case in point, “The Bicycle Musician”, the ultra conservative, boring statue that is slated for Adams Morgan.  We don’t need a polite place with nice lighting to show art.  We need something edgy, something crazy, something along the lines of The Bubble.

If DC can’t come up with its own edgy idea, it should copy one that already exists.  There is an underground performance space in London called “Shunt” that I visited last fall.  It’s dark, musty and raw.  The lighting is terrible.  In one section of the tunnel is a light and sound display, mixed with a fog machine that gives you the creeps.  In another section, a string quartet performs classical music on a loft built using two-by-fours.  Around the corner, performance artists act out a sex show as they writhe to techno music.  Up a set of stairs you will find a table where you can make your own mustache out of felt and double-sided tape.  Shunt is constantly changing as different groups inherit the space and make it their own.

I have hope that DC will come up with a creative use for the abandoned tunnels, but I’m worried that we’re a little too comfortable in our khaki pants and button down shirts.  Maybe we should just try the food court idea again.

Hailing from the Mile High City, Max has also lived in Tinsel Town, the Emerald City, as well as the City of Brotherly Love. Now a District resident, he likes to write about cool photos by local photographers, the DC restaurant and bar scene, or anything else that pops into his mind.

12 thoughts on “DC Seeks Vision for Dupont Underground

  1. “I’m worried that we’re a little too comfortable in our khaki pants and button down shirts.” – Love it.

  2. Maybe BUZZ should take it over. But if they city is sending out an RFP, I anticipate some sanitized, bland, boring, corporate POS will win the bid, no matter how many cool, edgy, and sustainable solutions are presented. And it will fail, again.

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  4. I would like to see some sort of social center that would provide services to the large homeless community near Dupont circle. Perhaps this is a tad too idealistic, but a food kitchen or work-assistance center.

  5. Right, Rebecca, because encouraging more homeless people to hang around in and near the Circle is clearly one of the primary goals of the city with this re-development . . .

  6. It’s sad it’s been empty for YEARS. Jack Evans has done nothing; Anthony Williams did nothing – he was rumored to keep his options for the space open as a place to move businesses displaced by his baseball stadium giveaway. How hard is it to just clean the space so it can be used for events?

    Here, BTW, is a photo of the old tunnel: http://www.dupontcircle.biz/pix/ctco766.jpg

    And here is a rendering of a potential use for the now-boarded-up entrances: http://flickr.com/photos/mvjantzen/112667633/

  7. I think the strip club idea would work… there is always a lot conferences going on here in DC and if your a male away from home on business thats one of the 1st things your looking for at night.