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Jim Ball, president and CEO of the Center for Imaginative Reuse, stands in front of the old Greyhound bus station in Vacaville on Tuesday. The Center for Imaginative Reuse plans to turn the bus station into an art center for kids and adults. Ball estimates the renovation should be completed by June. (Aaron Rosenblatt/Daily Republic)


Ball forges on with Vacaville art center

By From page A1 | April 18, 2013

VACAVILLE — Today it’s dry rot, tomorrow it’s Americans with Disabilities Act upgrades.

Despite some bumps in the road, financial and otherwise, the nonprofit Center for Imaginative Reuse, and its companion grove of Chinese pistache trees, is becoming a viable concept.

It’s become a widespread effort that has touched the people who have come in contact with Jim Ball and his idea to offer an art center that focuses on reusing recyclable items. The center will include a mobile art center, much like Fairfield’s city-run Fun on the Run, said Ball, who used to be the Vacaville parks and recreation director. It will be a location for people who want to tap into their creative side through classes, workshops or just want to purchase recyclable materials for a home art project.

It is also the stepping stone for an eventual 100-acre park to memorialize the 5,300 California soldiers who died during the Vietnam War.

The center was briefly located as a “pop-up” tenant in a city-owned space on Parker Street for a nominal fee – until a paying tenant was found, Ball said. The center’s product, including recyclable donations, are now in a storage unit, eating away funds the nonprofit earned while located on Parker Street. Storage fees will accumulate until the new building is ready.

The pending five-year lease with city on the former bus property is contingent upon fixing the building’s integrity and finding the funding for the ADA projects.

Brian McLean, the city’s facilities manager, called the pending lease between Ball and the city a positive for all parties involved – filling an empty building while adding an “innovative” venue to the city’s landscape. Elizabeth Hoffman and her organization, Rebuilding Together Solano County, have helped in past projects to ready the building, and will help in future projects; as has city Councilman Ron Rowlett, the business agent for the Carpenter’s Union Local 180. He called it a “win-win” situation.

The excitement in Ball’s voice was palpable recently as he walked about the old Greyhound bus building on Mason Street, talking about plans for its proposed future use. He pointed to this corner, that corner, and explained what will go in each area.

“I’m excited about recycling the (former) bus station into an art center that promotes recycling,” he said. “We want this to be a destination place for the community.”

Before it becomes a destination for anything other than graffiti artists tagging an empty building – and before a final lease is signed with the city – a few hurdles need to be cleared. Dry rot is the first obstacle that Hoffman and Rowlett are battling. Over the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, Rebuilding Together and its volunteers pitched in by prepping and painting the building. They painted three sides but had to stop because of the severity of the dry rot on the back side of the building.

Hoffman and her team of volunteers will return May 9-10 to demolish the back side of the building so Rowlett’s volunteer crew of local construction workers can reconstruct the wall May 11. Rebuilding Together supplies both volunteer labor and materials through in-kind donations and Rowlett’s crew is offering free labor. A short time later, a crew from Home Depot will paint the building.

The next step is raising money – about $10,000 to $12,000 – to update the handicap access with a curb ramp from the Mason Street side of the building. McLean said that when the building was built around 1993, “the ADA requirements weren’t as they are now.” Hoffman said that Rebuilding Together is “trying to help him” so he doesn’t have to come up with the entire amount. The city also helped gather information.

“We went out and talked with various contractors who have been used by the city so that we could give him a ballpark figure,” McLean said. “At that point we turned it over to Jim.”

Ball said he’s not daunted by the prospect of raising the money. He called himself an “optimist.”

Everyone involved in the project is pulling for its success. McLean said it melds well with the “green” focus Vacaville has been touting for several years.

“Vacaville has always been on the cutting edge of green,” McLean said. “This is another option for another one of those programs.”

For more information on how to help with the Center for Imaginative Reuse, call Hoffman at Rebuilding Together Solano County, 580-9360 or Ball at 301-7030.

Reach Susan Winlow at 427-6955 or [email protected] Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/swinlowdr.


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