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Arts Group Signs Lease to Reopen Dupont Underground

A group wants to turn an abandoned streetcar depot into DC's next cultural destination.

After years of vision statements about subterranean galleries, theaters, and restaurants, the plan to liven up the abandoned trolley depot underneath Dupont Circle is finally taking shape. The Arts Coalition for the Dupont Underground, a group of businesspeople with designs on turning the space into DC’s next cultural hotspot, signed a five-and-a-half-year lease with the District on Tuesday to turn it into an arts and events venue.

The 75,000-square-foot space, a network of tunnels below Connecticut Avenue, has been mostly dormant since the District’s last streetcars stopped running in 1962. It was used briefly as a fallout shelter in the late 1960s, and as a dingy food court in the early 1990s. The city picked the Arts Coalition in 2010 to eventually rehab the space.

Four years later, the organization has finally inked the paperwork, but the city won’t be putting up any money of its own. Instead, the Arts Coalition is turning to a series of crowd-funding efforts, beginning with a $50,000 campaign on Fundable. It is also working with Destination Crowd Capital, a DC-based venture that seeks funding from established investors.

“The next five years will be a dynamic time of showcasing new artists and designers, new technologies, and the exciting possibilities this space presents,” the group’s founder, architect Julian Hunt, says in a press release. “We see the Dupont Underground providing cultural and economic benefits to Dupont Circle and to the District of Columbia.”

It’ll be a while before artists and entertainers take their shows below ground, though. The initial rounds of fundraising are just for cleaning up the tunnels and opening them to the public, with long-term exhibition plans still in the works, Hunt says.

Find Benjamin Freed on Twitter at @brfreed.

Staff Writer

Benjamin Freed joined Washingtonian in August 2013 and covers politics, business, and media. He was previously the editor of DCist and has also written for Washington City Paper, the New York Times, the New Republic, Slate, and BuzzFeed. He lives in Adams Morgan.