On West Lake Street here, a dance studio is rising out of a sprawling, diesel-blackened former industrial complex and adjacent, gaping space left by the deconstruction of a municipal power plant.
Debbie Griggas, who since 2013 has lived with her husband, Bob, and teenage sons a half-block from the 213 W. Lake St. site, is relocating her longtime dance school, Dance Studio 3D, here from Deerfield.
The doors will open in the fall.
Griggas, who grew up in Deerfield, has been teaching dance in that community since 1984.
While she is the longtime artistic force behind Dance Studio 3D, her husband, Bob, is the building restoration’s visionary.
His hard work, with the help of contractors and friends and family, is lending new life to the site that’s about a block west of the downtown Lake Mills city square.
Right now, it’s an active construction zone, with century-old brick walls still open to the air, cranes busily lifting support beams for a new addition that’s going up on the power plant site, and lots of mud and rubble.
Construction of the addition started April 7.
Lake Mills City Manager Steve Wilke said Dance Studio 3D’s relocation “is a great opportunity for a new business in Lake Mills. We’re glad they decided to bring it here.”
Dance Studio 3D will join an eclectic downtown arts neighborhood; its site is closely flanked by Ephraim Pottery, Bruce Johnson Clay Studio, a metal fabricator, a glass studio, a website designer, and others.
The Lake Mills community, as a whole, has a strong arts core; Dance Studio 3D will fit right in, Wilke said.
“It’s a great addition. We’re glad to be able to work with the Griggases,” Wilke said.
Wilke said the restoration of the existing building, which at various times over the past century has housed a steam-powered generator, diesel generators which beginning in 1931 powered the entire city of Lake Mills, and most recently the city parks department, is also good for the community.
Bob and Debbie Griggas bought the building and power plant site from the city without the benefit of tax incremental financing or other assistance. They took down the power plant – piece by piece.
Griggas said she’s particularly excited to be next door to Ephraim Pottery, located at 203 W. Lake St. Owner Kevin Hicks, also a Deerfield native, is a close childhood friend and they share a common artistic outlook.
Griggas said Hicks’ vintage Arts and Crafts style of pottery meshes well with what she teaches her students about early twentieth-century modern dancers like Isadora Duncan and Martha Graham.
Arts and Crafts pioneer Gustav Stickley famously promoted the motto that he did “as well as I can,” meaning he pushed himself to achieve to the peak of his abilities, Griggas said. That’s a philosophy that she works to instill in her young dancers.
It’s not the first time Bob Griggas has undertaken a major restoration project. Far from it, in fact.
From 1989 to 1991, with the help of others, he spent two years restoring the 1917-era building on Deerfield’s Main Street that has since housed Dance Studio 3D.
He was behind the restoration, a decade ago in Deerfield, of what was the Cuda Café and now is The Railhouse bar along the Glacial Drumlin State Trail.
In 2009, he was part of a team that won a state award for the restoration of the former Lake Mills municipal building that is now home to Ephraim Pottery.
And he restored the family’s 1907 Arts and Crafts-style house in Lake Mills.
The new Dance Studio 3D will have two classroom/rehearsal studios, collectively a little larger than the two studios Griggas is leaving behind in Deerfield. It will also have a mezzanine level, a large waiting area with an expansive bank of exterior windows, and lots of interior observation windows into both studios.
For waiting adults, there will be countertops along the observation windows, so parents can work on a laptop or tablet while their children are in class. There will be bar stools to sit on.
The new studio will feature state-of-the-art sprung wood floors, Debbie Griggas said, and lots of materials – from recycled glass to a repurposed staircase – that the couple worked hard to find used.
“We are really trying to think green,” Debbie Griggas said.
She has been envisioning the interior, collecting vintage mirrors to hang on the brick walls.
“I’m excited about that,” she said.
There’s space on the second floor, not accessible to students, that the Griggasses envision remodeling into an apartment, perhaps for visiting artists in residence.
And there will be a large parking lot, something she didn’t have in Deerfield.
A lot of work remains to be completed into the summer, the Griggases said.
“But,” Debbie Griggas said, “it is going to be beautiful when it’s done.”