“You are about to enter the wild west of commercial real estate!” This is a direct quote, from an arts colleague executive director, and the first entry in the “Space & Capital Campaign” journal I started January 6, 2015, seven years ago, when Luna decided to pursue a capital campaign, and search for a building that we could manifest into a community home for dance education.
Eight years later, after attending 100+ capital campaign meetings, viewing 30+ properties in Berkeley, meeting with owners of two other potential properties that fell through, raising $1.3M, and losing our leased space due to a global pandemic—Luna signed the deed to 931 Ashby in West Berkeley on March 31st of last year. It has been a wild ride, and the twists and turns of this ride continue, as we enter the renovation process.
Luna’s building is across the street from Urban Ore, a block from Berkeley Bowl West and KALA Art Institute, and near the 580 freeway. It is the perfect property for us! Roomy enough now with space to grow, since the building also came with a restaurant tenant. The entire three-floor building is 9,910 square feet. After moving nine times in 31 years—I am grateful we will have a place to call home, a place where children, families, artists, and teachers can come to belong in a thriving learning community centered on the art of dance. Once the renovations are complete we will have two large dance studios, a library, offices for Luna staff and teaching artists in residency, a creativity research center on the top floor, and an elevator.
Last year at this time, we launched a successful advocacy campaign, requesting $150K from the City of Berkeley to support ADA access. An elevator, accessible restrooms, and ramps to the dance studios are all part of the architectural designs for this space. We continue to be grateful to the city council members who approved our request, and to all of you in our community who wrote letters, sent emails, and showed up at a multitude of meetings until the final budget request was approved on June 28, 2022. Installing an elevator is a gargantuan project. Never in my wildest dream when I began my career as a dancer 30 years ago did I imagine I would be considering elevator design, the cost of elevator installation (approximately $250K), and the structural relationship between the elevator, elevator room, and the roof of a building.
As we renovate Luna’s forever home, there are times when it can seem a bit daunting, especially since renovating a building of this magnitude and financing a project of this size is new and unchartered territory for me. However, when I envision in my mind’s eye–children and families laughing and dancing in one studio; a rehearsal in full progress in another studio; teachers in our creativity research center engaged in honest conversations about equity and dance pedagogy; friends old and new greeting each other, collaborating and connecting in this dance space Luna is manifesting—I am less daunted. I am inspired by what I see, and by the potential of what will be created with and by the community in this dance space.
We are in the process of having architectural plans approved by the city this spring, and then construction will commence. While we are under construction, come dance with us at a pop-up family dance class; or if you are an artist or teacher attend a professional learning activity or use these curricular resources. We plan to open to the public at the end of this year. I look forward to dancing with you at our grand opening.