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Dance Place activating its alley with art and games

A child dances in the alley between Dance Place and the Artspace Lofts during an open house

A concept sketch of what the Arts Park could look like

A concept sketch of what the Arts Park could look like

Dance Place founder Carla Perlo digs in the dirt for "Dance Place Garden Club"

Dance Place, right, the Artspace Lofts, left, and the alley, middle

Dance Place in Brookland expects to issue a request for proposals to architects in April for turning an alley into an activities, exhibit and performance space. The Kearny Street Alley runs between Dance Place and the adjacent Brookland Artspace Lofts.
“The alley is the connective tissue between the two buildings,” says Carla Perlo, founding director of Dance Place, a nonprofit center that offers dance performances, dance school for children and adults and academic enrichment programs for youth.
Perlo said the original idea was a joint project with Artspace to connect the two buildings and create an arts campus. But since the alley serves as an emergency vehicle route to the Red Line Metro tracks, the District Department of Transportation said it couldn't be filled in or have anything permanent installed in the middle. “When we found out we couldn’t combine into one land mass, we had to rethink the project,” she says.
In June 2014, Dance Place, at 3225 8th St NE, finished a $4 million renovation and expansion from 7,000 to 10,500 square feet. In October, it received a $500,000 grant from the Kresge Foundation to transform the alley into an arts park.
Since then, a committee of interested citizens has been meeting to come up with design and program ideas for the space. Among the ideas are overhead lighting, an overhead canopy, playable water fountains, moveable art supplies, a game cart and a collapsible stage. (There's still time to send in suggestions and ideas.)
Judy Estey, director of grants for Dance Place, says the committee design process will be finished by summer of 2015. However, the process will be far enough along to issue the request for proposals from architects, with the finalist chosen in May.
Dance Place will then work with DDOT, which is supporting the concept, and other District agencies to get the required permits. Estey said the transformed alley should open by fall of 2016.
As for Perlo, she is envisioning replacing the asphalt road with Astroturf and installing flowering plants and herbs in standing boxes. “It will be a community garden, a different type of community garden, and a green space for Brookland, which has limited green space,” she says.
Dance Place has been attending community meetings with the Brookland Neighborhood Civic Association, ANC 5B, ANC 5E, Edgewood Civic Association, Friends of Edgewood and Greater Brookland Business Association.

Dance Place is also hosting a community meeting on Wednesday, February 11 at 7 p.m. at its Education Center in the Brookland Artspace Lofts, 3305 8th Street, NE, unit 103.

This article has been updated to correct the spelling of Judy Estey's last name. Elevation DC regrets the error.

Read more articles by Barbara Pash.

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