The nonprofit Arts Coalition for the Dupont Underground (ACDU) announced today that it has signed a 66-month lease with the District of Columbia’s Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development (DMPED) for an abandoned 75,000-s.f. former trolley station below the streets of Dupont Circle, in the District’s Northwest quadrant. The ACDU also launch of a crowdfunding campaign on Fundable.
Founded by architect Julian Hunt, co-principal of Hunt Laudi Studio, a D.C.-based architecture and urban design firm, the ACDU has been negotiating with DMPED for the lease since the group won a 2010 RFP from the city to redev elop the space. Hunt, who moved to the District in the mid-1990s and has been working to reopen the platforms and tunnels for more than a decade, was inspired by the years he spent living and working in Barcelona, where architects and artists have played a crucial role in shaping that city’s physical and cultural growth.
Hunt stated, “I didn’t find the same kind of energy and conversation going on here. My first effort was to launch a critical journal, but when I discovered the old trolley station, I realized that I had stumbled onto a compelling, vital place to make something happen right below one of the District’s iconic public spaces.”
The tunnels, built along with the Connecticut Avenue underpass, opened in 1949 and closed in 1963, when the city’s streetcar system was shut down. Other than designation as a fallout shelter in the late 1960s and hosting a short-lived food court on the west platform in the mid-1990s, the space — which the group calls the the Dupont Underground — has remained empty. The nonprofit will focus initial efforts on transforming the east platform. Hunt shared, “The plan is to clean up the space, then open it up to the public. We want to demonstrate what uses are best suited for the long-term.”
The ACDU is among the first U.S. cultural groups to use “destination crowdfunding” for development. It has partnered with District-based Destination Crowd Capital (DCC) to assist the nonprofit in this process, as well as to generate strategies for long-term investment and development.
DCC helps businesses raise capital, conduct market research and develop a loyal customer base, and establish grassroots marketing. The company was co-founded by Scott Wayne, an international destination development expert, and Scott Popma, an intellectual property attorney and expert on crowdfunding.
In addition to activating the space through art- and design-related events, public performances and other gatherings, as well as temporary commercial uses, the ACDU will also be working on long-term plans to permanently redevelop all 75,000 square feet as a mixed-use cultural destination. To that end, it has hired Patrick P. Smith, a development specialist who has studied the space, as director of real estate development. The ACDU will add more staff, including an arts and programming director, in the months ahead.
“The next five years will be a dynamic time of showcasing new artists and designers, new technologies, and the exciting possibilities this space presents,” Hunt added. “We see the Dupont Underground providing cultural and economic benefits to Dupont Circle and to the District of Columbia.”
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