The cobwebs that have grown in the abandoned tunnels located beneath Dupont Circle may soon be cleared away to make room for a new arts district in the area, as the city attempts to reclaim the potentially valuable space.

The space was used for transportation and storage until the mid-1990s, but has not been used since. In July 2010, however, the Arts Coalition submitted a proposal for renovating the space. The coalition plans to create an arts institute that will contain galleries and art studios.

“By reclaiming this ideally sited piece of subterranean infrastructure . we seek to establish a local and emergent arts institution that will put the city on the cultural map,” The Arts Coalition for Dupont Underground stated on its website.

On Oct. 20, the coalition released initial plans for the project. The coalition said that work can begin as soon as the new lease is approved. The tunnels are public property owned by the city; evaluations can only take place once a lease has been negotiated.

According to the coalition’s website, the project will take about two years to complete and will cost about $10 million.

All plans are still in the preliminary stages, however, Robin Diener, president of the Dupont Circle Citizens Association, said.

“There are no plans for funding – it’s all speculation at this point,” Diener said.

Diener also said that the city will not pay for the development or the evaluation of the space. She stressed that the community, the coalition and city officials must collaborate more to develop a feasible plan.

“The city doesn’t have the ability under its usual planning processes to deal with this project,” Diener said.

According to The Washington Post, the 100,000 square feet of space was used to house trolleys until 1962 and was a fallout shelter until as late as 1975. There has been one previous attempt to revamp the tunnels: a food court that opened and quickly failed in the mid-1990s. While residents have not received many details on the new project, Diener remains positive.

“Enthusiasm for the idea in the community is very high,” Diener said.”

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