The District of Columbia Office of Planning (OP) manages the development of the District of Columbia by preserving and revitalizing characteristic neighborhoods such as, Dupont Circle (District of Columbia Office of Planning, “About the DC Office of Planning | Mission”). OP uses historic resources research, community visioning, and the mapping and analysis of US Census data to create a Performance Plan, which exposes initiatives for improvement and emphasizes faults that hinder progress. In their website, the District of Columbia Office of Planning uses a series of analysis, reports, and documents to create a performance plan that all together depicts the why’s and how’s of the past, present, and future of Dupont Circle. While the District of Columbia Office of Planning explores Dupont Circle as a whole, this essay aims to take their conclusions and apply them to the Dupont Circle Club (DCC), an independent business in Dupont Circle.
Before analyzing the Dupont Circle Club its environment, Dupont Circle, must first be studied. The District of Colombia is divided into eight wards. Dupont Circle resides in the second ward, which is home to some of the oldest and prestigious residential neighborhoods of the district (“About Ward 2 | Op”). Within the ward, Dupont Circle is bounded by Connecticut Avenue NW from Florida Avenue south to K Street and P Street from Dupont Circle west to 22nd St. These boundaries encompass embassies, nonprofit organizations, think tanks, businesses, and restaurants that create an urban, historic, and diverse environment. Dupont Circle is divided into two major sub-regions, north and south, that each attract and cater to a different kind of individual. One the one hand, the fact that the two very different sub-regions attract a variety of individuals is what makes Dupont Circle’s cosmopolitan reputation. On the other hand, an increase in rent has pushed out some of the unique independent businesses replacing them with retail chains that endanger Dupont Circles heterogeneous reputation (Retail Action Roadmap,38).
To understand why Dupont Circle has a such a unique reputation OP created a brochure that gives insight into the circles history (Dupont Circle Historic District). Dupont Circle’s enrichment began in the 1960’s when artists and young counter-culture individuals infiltrated the home of some of the wealthiest citizens of the United States. These individuals catalyzed the opening of independently owned business, specialty shops, art galleries, non-traditional bookstores, and restaurants that created a cultured environment. Another enrichment event is the arrival of the Metro because it gave less-affluent citizens of DC access to the model urbane neighborhood. This influx of citizens from the larger city gave way to the construction of affordable row houses which diversified development. Now instead of a homogenous population individuals of varied economic statuses lived side by side creating the start of a heterogeneous community.
After the second world war Dupont Circle faced developers wanting to rezone the residential community for high density use. The commercialization of Dupont Circle would have destroyed the heterogeneous environment that had developed. For this reason, the Dupont Circle Citizens Association, created by prominent citizens to protect the interests of Dupont Circle’s residents, advocated to list Dupont Circle in the National Register of Historic Places. Dupont Circle was established as a historic district in 1976 and its boundaries were amended in 2005.
In their website, OP includes a document and maps that list and illustrate the historic boundaries of Dupont Circle and the structures that contribute to it. In these maps (figures 3 and 4), it can be seen that the location of the Dupont Circle Club is a contributing structure to the historic district. According to the National Register of Historic Places, historic boundaries are determined by the following criteria: “The boundaries…include properties that contribute to a broad understanding of the architectural and historical evolution of Dupont Circle”(National Park Service). This means that if the Dupont Circle Club is listed as a contributing structure to the historic district then it must contribute to either the architectural or historical evolution of Dupont Circle.
Now that a better understanding of Dupont Circle has been reached, the Dupont Circle club can be analyzed as an independent business within Dupont Circle. What is the DCC? The Dupont Circle Club (DCC) is as a local meeting place in DC for 12-step recovery located on 1623 Connecticut Avenue. The club has resided in the building 1623 for 28 years (since November of 1989); however, the building is one of the oldest of the node as can be seen in figure3 (District of Columbia Office of Planning, Dupont Circle Historic District Dates of Construction). One the one hand, the building 1623 is architectural evidence of evolution. On the other hand, the club itself is evidence of historical evolution in Dupont Circle because it is a product of the crack epidemic that occurred in the District of Colombia in the 1980’s. Consequently, the DCC fits both criteria for being a historically contributing structure. Apart from qualifying as a historic structure the club is a big source of diversity and this can be seen in their website when it writes, “These meetings bring hundreds of people a week into the rooms of DCC. Our central location, a block north of Dupont Circle provides for a rich diversity of ethnicity, class, gender, and geographic origin, with many out-of-town visitors”(Dupont Circle Club). This means that the DCC is a contributor to the cultured and historical community that has developed in Dupont Circle, especially the north region.
The Office of Planning created a SWOT analysis of Dupont Circle’s Connecticut Avenue that lists the strengths and weakness of the area. The OP in page eleven of the report concludes the following “North of the Circle, rental price point has forced out local, specialty retailers in favor of national credit tenants, threatening this area of the Dupont sub market’s eclectic charm” (DC Retail Action Strategy,11). This means that rising rent is endangering the continuance of local independent business, like the DCC, that brand Dupont Circle. Rising rents affect some business more than others especially non profit organizations like the DCC. As a non-profit organization, the Dupont Circle Club’s success is based on outside donations. Offering a variety of payment methods and membership categories, that range from a fifty-dollar annual charge to a twenty-four-hundred-dollar annual charge, they make it very accessible for outsiders to donate. However, what happens when the donations they receive aren’t enough to sustain their expenses? Will the Dupont Circle Club be forced to relocate or will the fact that it’s a historical structure save it?
The District of Columbia Office of Planning in their website has a page dedicated to preservation grants. It details that community groups, organizations, and nonprofits whose interests are to preserve history, architecture, and memory of residential neighborhoods can apply for preservation grants from two major entities: the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the Humanities Council of Washington, DC (“Preservation Grants | Op”). This means, that as a nonprofit and historically contributing structure the Dupont Circle club can apply for preservation grants that will allow for a historically important part of Dupont Circle to remain in Dupont Circle.