Lakeville’s Heritage Center opens
Seniors excited about facility’s prospects
It was an atmosphere of excitement Sept. 25 at the new Heritage Center in Lakeville, which was in its second day of operation.
Some Lakeville Senior Center members were touring the 17,000-square-foot facility that is home to the Senior Center, the Lakeville Area Historical Society and the Lakeville Beyond the Yellow Ribbon organization.
They were often in awe of the larger size that allows for multiple programs under one roof without everyone “bumping into each other,” as one woman said. Another woman, recalling that the building was once a police station, asked “where is the jail?”
Jeannine Anderson lives next to the old Lakeville Senior Center on Holt Avenue in downtown Lakeville, a site that is currently for sale but has not had any firm offers.
She said the new facility, which is about a half-mile north along Holyoke Avenue and across Highway 50, will require her to get rides to attend her choir practice and other programming. She also volunteers to greet people at the main entrance and help them find their classes.
Nevertheless, Anderson said she is still pleased with the result.
“We needed it,” she said.
Construction began on the facility this year, following bid approval in March, though the City Council began its often heated and controversial discussions on the project in early 2011.
The idea for a hybrid site goes back to 2009, when the historical society proposed the idea to the city. In 2010 talks continued and a plan became more concrete. The Lakeville Beyond the Yellow Ribbon organization joined the effort in fall 2011.
The building had served as the police station until 2008, when the police moved into the new station toward the geographical center of the city. After this, it sat empty but for the Lakeville school district’s brief flirtation with it as a possible community education site.
So the challenge was two-fold: Remodel a facility built for the police into something oriented toward community programs; and the City Council instructed that the project be tax-neutral.
The three organizations have raised about $110,000 in cash donations toward paying back a $400,000 bridge loan from the city’s liquor fund.
The groups hope to raise about $150,000 more. The rest of the loan would be paid back with the sale of the old building.
The total cost of the project was $1.09 million, with most of that coming from the city’s existing building funds.
The Heritage Center has received a wealth of in-kind donations, including pavement work, carpentry and supplies. Lifetime Fitness donated some exercise equipment and someone donated a baby grand piano, among other things. Donated labor hours exceed 1,500.
The Heritage Center includes game rooms, a room for a computer, two larger gathering spaces and reception areas, a commercial kitchen, an atrium, an art room, an exercise room and locker rooms.
All rooms featured furniture repurposed from other city buildings or donated from outside parties.
The three tenants share some gathering spaces and reception areas, but the Historical Society and Yellow Ribbon also have their own spaces.
Most of the rooms are available to the public for rent, said Senior Center Coordinator Linda Walter.
“It’s awesome,” Walter said of the new space. “It’s so much fun to see the excitement the seniors have.”
Wally Potter, historical society treasurer, was busy unpacking.
Boxes with old copies of the Dakota County Tribune newspapers abounded amid other relics of Lakeville’s past. He has been on-site at for months, helping remodel as well as moving boxes. He said he enjoyed all the support for the new place.
“I’ve got to thank all the volunteers for helping out,” he said. “It’s great to be here.”
The historical society for years was housed in the old parsonage on the Lakeville Area Arts Center property, but the building became unable to accommodate the public (it is not Americans with Disabilities Act compliant).
The fate of the parsonage is not entirely certain, but it will be moved off its current site and the foundation will be filled in to accommodate more space for arts center activities, according to discussions at the city.
Support for the Heritage Center was never unanimous during discussions of 2011 and 2012.
The City Council vote was typically a 3-2 split, with council members Matt Little, Laurie Rieb and Kerrin Swecker in support of and Mayor Mark Bellows and Council Member Colleen Ratzlaff LaBeau against it.
LaBeau and Bellows were concerned about the cost of the project – both the construction and the upkeep.
Bellows also said he thought the project was not visionary enough, because it did not seem to accommodate future growth of the senior demographic.
Both also took issue with a bridge loan from the city, designed to further the project while donations are raised.
The supporters saw it as a way to honor the seniors, whose previous facility was aging and unable to host the depth and breadth of programming Walter has organized. There are more than 216 programs per month.
They also said that a new space for the historical society and a permanent space for Yellow Ribbon were much-needed. The confluence of all three organizations in a building the city already owns added to the attraction for them.
Anderson, sitting at her post in the front lobby, said she sees a great future for the new facility.
“I think it’s going to be nice,” she said.
The Heritage Center will host a grand-opening ceremony in two weeks.