Patrick Robinson
Dakota Place park has been completely transformed into a new meeting/class/gathering space and the former power station was celebrated with an open house on Oct. 20. The new space is an adjunct to the Hiwatha Community Center and already has classes scheduled and even a wedding booked there for next summer. CLICK TO SEE ANOTHER PHOTO

Dakota Place Park opened officially Oct. 20 with a party

Dakota Place Park, which for the past six years, has been an idea to transform a former power substation into a community gathering place and park was finally realized Oct. 20. The building and grounds at 4304 SW Dakota Street have been transformed and were celebrated with an Open House and community gathering. The gathering was very well attended, so much so that they ran out food early.

The newly renovated space will serve as a satellite facility for Hiawatha Community Center and while work on the exterior was done in 2009 and a dedication held, the interior work was not completed until recently.

Rob Wunder, President of the Hiawatha Advisory Council was on hand and said the renovation of the structure was intentionally meant to serve many purposes. It can hold 80 to 100 people depending on the configuration (with table and without) and he noted with some pleasure that it has already been booked for a wedding next summer. "I'm proud that we persevered throughout the different funding challenges, through all the budget cuts at the Parks Department and found a way to get it done like it should be done. The Advisory Council wanted to build something we could be proud of that we were part of. We wanted to make something the community could be proud of, and that we could have classes in here because we've run out of space at Hiawatha.

Wunder, who has been President of the Council for 20 years takes special pride in the new space in part because he "grew up across the street from Hiawatha. I spent my entire youth there. It's like a home to me. It's an important place in the community.

The building features 2 multi-purpose rooms, 2 ADA compatible restrooms, small food prep area, storage space, sound system and fold out mirrors for dance classes.

There are a couple of finishing touches yet to be added. A convection micro wave oven, and an ice-maker are coming (based on community feedback) and instead of a conventional refrigerator they are adding a "catering refrigerator" that will have racks in it for that purpose.

The Friends of Dakota Place Park was the driving force in this development which had a budget from the Pro Parks Levy Reserve Fund including a $500,000 contribution and an Associated Recreation Council $180,000 contribution for a total of $680,000.

As the West Seattle Herald reported in 2006, many hands helped make the park what it is including the West Seattle Garden Tour, the Hiawatha Community Center Advisory Council, Arts West, First Lutheran Church of West Seattle, Westside Children's Dentistry, Endolyne Garden Club and the Tilden School.

The Seattle Parks and Recreation web page offers details:

• The Friends of Dakota Place Park fundraising, together with a Neighborhood Matching Fund Grant from the Department of Neighborhoods, provided integrated art work, site furnishings, and extensive plantings.

• Project elements include: plaza with integrated artwork, ADA access, site lighting, multiple seating elements, refurbishing existing historic elements, automated irrigation, and partial rehabilitation of the exiting historic City Light Substation Building.

• Building improvements include: hazardous material abatement, historically correct window and door replacement, new roof, brick re-pointing, and seismic upgrades. The building is a now a complete weather tight shell that ensures preservation of this historic asset.

On weekdays the space is programmed for classes including Adult Dance and youth Ballet and Tap.

Dance for Joy! teaches adult classes in beginning Waltz and Foxtrot

A monthly dance is scheduled at Dakota Place. The first one was on October 9.

For more information contact the Hiawatha Community Center at 206.684.7441.

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