The once-noisy streetcar tunnels beneath Dupont Circle would remain silent--eternally--under an Alexandria businessman's plan to convert the abandoned passageways into a resting place for the ashes of the dead.
That plan, along with proposals for a health spa and a produce market, were the only offerings submitted to the District government in response to a city request for proposals to develop the unused and unseen space in one of the city's most fashionable areas.
"We've got three very different kind of proposals," said Stanley Storck, a realty specialist with the city Department of General Services. The city plans to choose one of the three plans within several months, with final approval resting with the mayor's office.
The twin tunnels, opened in 1949 to relieve above-ground congestion on Washington's busiest streetcar line, have been vacant since the trolleys were abandoned in 1962. The tunnels are run on either side of the Connecticut Avenue underpass.
Six stairways, now filled with trash, once carried commuters beneath the circle where they waited to hear the familiar screech of D.C. Transit System's Mount Pleasant line. The tunnels were later designated fallout shelters, holding stores of emergency food, until vandals broke in and ransacked the supplies.
City officials and Dupont Circle residents have long been interested in developing the 15,400-square-foot space, in which some sections are 26 feet wide and 14 feet high. In 1975, the city selected nationally known architect Arthur Cotton Moore to develop the space. He proposed a $1 million retail mall, but the deal collapsed when he was unable to finance the development.
Patricia Moore, the architect's wife and a spokesman for his firm, said retailers had been "intensely interested" in the mall plan and signed letters of intent to rent more than half the space. "It would be a wonderful place to do business," she said.
The city revived the tunnel plan this year, soliciting proposals from developers and receiving three by the final deadline of May 27. A five-member committee representing four city agencies and the Dupont area's Advisory Neighborhood Commission 2-B will solicit more detailed plans, conduct a public hearing, and then recommend one proposal to be forwarded to the mayor for approval, according to the Department of General Services.
While the District government is again seeking to pump new life into the underground, one developer's plan would house only the dead.
John C. Pappas, who runs a real estate business in the metropolitan area, submitted that proposal on behalf of Onshore Simultaneous Oil & Gas Inc. of Alexandria.
Pappas, in what he described as "a grand plan," proposed: " . . . the creation of a beautiful, quiet, and civilized nationally recognized prestigious place of honor--a Columbarium of Niches to accommodate the remains of those who have passed on with the expressed wish in having their ashes placed in a national sanctuary similar to the Westminster Abbey of London, England."
The proposal does not explain the designation of national sanctuary and Pappas could not be reached for comment. He proposes to pay the city $60,000 a year for a 110-year lease, with rent renegotiated every 10 years. He did not specify the rental prices for urns and vaults in the columbarium.
William B. Fitzgerald, president of Independence Federal Savings and Loan Association of Washington, submitted a proposal on behalf of the Dupont Recreation Corp. to turn the tunnels into a recreation facility, with squash courts and various exercise facilities, with a pro shop selling sporting goods and with a snack bar. The proposal would pay the city $50,000 a year or 4 percent of annual sales, whichever is greater.
Claude W. Roxborough, a Washington lawyer who was one of the founding partners of the Foxtrappe club, submitted a proposal on behalf of Dupont Trolley Market Inc. to turn the space into a produce market with 22 stalls at which entrepreneurs would "vend their goods in a tasteful and sophisticated manner to a mainstream market."
Roxborough's plan would provide the city $1 per square foot annual rent, but the developers would get a $5 per foot credit for their capital investment of $208,215. After the developers paid off their loan, the city would receive $6 per square foot rent, with renegotiations every three years.
Roxborough said his plan has the support of both ANC 2-B and the Dupont Circle Citizens Association, which he said have both voted in favor of the food market plan.