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Dupont Underground Soon to Re-Open With an Arts and Community Focus; DC’s Lease Terms Generous

Accompanying images can be viewed in the January 2016 issue pdf

By P.L. Wolff

A five-year, $149,996.00 lease with the District — payable at $1.00 per year until the end of the lease when the full amount will be due — is making possible a complete re-imagining and projected implementation of a wide range of changing and on-going uses inside what had once been the below ground Dupont Circle streetcar station.

Led by Managing Director Braulio Agnese and a board composed of architects and arts organization professionals among others, including George Washington University student and Dupont Circle ANC 2B02 Commissioner Daniel Warwick, the non-profit organization’s mission is “to revitalize the abandoned trolley station . . . for presenting, producing, and promoting cutting-edge arts, architecture, design, and creative endeavors.”

Specifically, as delineated in the lease document, activities to be conducted can include “Art & Design Exhibitions, Public Arts Performances, Community [and] Educational Events, Pop-Up Retail & Dining, Creative Economy Incubators, Demonstrations of Emerging Technologies, Film Shoots & Commercial Photography, Rental Space for Private Events.”

Further, it is envisioned that Dupont Down Under will “contribute to the ongoing evolution of Dupont Circle as a vital public space that engages D.C.’s diverse residents and visitors.” A complete reading of their mission is can be found on the Dupont Down Under website.

Managing Director Agnese has told The InTowner that he expects to be “finalizing a plan to open . . . the east platform [portion], in a basic way . . . sometime [this year]. Our permits are in the final approval stages, and then we have fundraising to do for the construction work. Once the east platform is open, we’ll turn our attention to opening the west platform (where the food court was) in a more comprehensive way and to a larger capacity.”

Currently, there is a capital campaign underway to raise the needed $350,000 for the east portion adaptive re-use improvements to create, as Agnese said, a kind of “blank canvas” so as to nothing to distract from the art, performances, and other activities that will be featured.

Already underway is “Re-Ball!,” an open design competition for a site-specific installation that will inaugurate the new use of this former trolley station space. As described in the press release issued on the occasion of the competition’s launch on January 4th, “Re-Ball! is the result of a Dupont Underground Partnership with the National Building Museum to re-use the hundreds of thousands of translucent 3-inch plastic balls that were part of the museum’s blockbuster BEACH installation last summer. Early registration deadline will be February 4th, with close of entries to be March 4th, and winners to be announced on the 21st when the first place winner will be awarded $3,500.00. Complete information is available on the Re-Ball competition website. The competition jury will include, among others, Dupont Underground’s founder and board member architect Julian Hunt, the National Building Museum’s Executive Director W. Rynd, the Phillips Collection’s Senior Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art Vesela Sretenović.

The District’s contract with DCENTER, INC. (Arts Coalition for Dupont Underground), as officially known, is the culmination of a process started five years ago with the issuance of a Request for Proposals RFP), which we reported on at the time. (See, “City Soon to Seek Proposals for Use of Former Trolley Station Under Dupont Circle,” February 2010 issue pdf, page 1.)