It’s been more than a year since the public last heard from the folks who want to build out the Dupont Underground, the 75,000-square-foot space underneath Connecticut Avenue that was once used as a trolley tunnel. With so much silence from such an ambitious project, it’s easy to worry that the thing might have lost steam altogether.
Not so! The team is still working away behind the scenes to turn their exclusive rights agreement with the city into a bona fide lease, which will make it much easier to raise the $10 million needed to build out the space into galleries, restaurants, and other creative-type locales. They’ve got a target date of March to get letters of interest from potential tenants and a draft pro forma to the city, which could turn into something more concrete by the end of 2012.
Right now, a major national theater chain and a high-end name-brand retailer are looking at serving as the anchor tenant (hint: they’re also feeling out downtown and NoMa) and three wineries are interested in what would amount to about a quarter of the space. The non-profit’s board now includes a principal from HR&A Advisors, a development consultant that helped put together the High Line in Manhattan. And architect Julian Hunt is roughing out designs for above-ground manifestations of the subterranean space that would serve as eye-catching entrances, as well as a proposal to create more public space for the Dupont Circle farmers market by decking over the under the Connecticut Avenue underpass.
There’s a lot more I’m not saying, of course. While touring interested parties around the space, Hunt is very careful about the information he releases, recognizing the tricky position he’s in between the city, potential investors, and neighborhood groups. Expect things to become more concrete when ink dries on the lease.
If you want to learn more, there’s a meeting next Thursday the 17th at the Warehouse Theater at 6:30 p.m. with fancy new renderings and discussion about how this can all get done.