Downtown College Prep reopens at former Southern Lumber site

After bouncing from site to site in its 17 years of existence, Downtown College Prep has cut the ribbon of its new home — the transformed Southern Lumber building on Monterey Highway in San Jose. That’s just in the nick of time for the 1,100 students who’ll start school there Monday.

From left, San Jose Vice Mayor Magdalena Carrasco, John A. Sobrato, U.S. Rep. Zoe Lofgren and San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo help cut the ribbon on Downtown College Prep's new campus in the old Southern Lumber building on Monterey Highway on Friday, Aug. 25, 2017. (Sal Pizarro/Staff)
From left, San Jose Vice Mayor Magdalena Carrasco, John A. Sobrato, U.S. Rep. Zoe Lofgren and San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo help cut the ribbon on Downtown College Prep’s new campus in the old Southern Lumber building. (Sal Pizarro/Staff) 

Jennifer Andaluz, who started Downtown College Prep in 2000 and now serves as its executive director, welcomed a huge crowd for the event Friday afternoon, with school parents and staff joining donors, boosters and elected officials, including U.S. Rep. Zoe Lofgren and San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo. John A. Sobrato was right at the center of the ribbon cutting, and for good reason: The Sobrato Family Foundation provided a lead gift of $3 million to the school’s capital campaign. A $2 million gift also came from Netflix founder Reed Hastings and his wife, Patty Quillin.

The amazing transition from lumber store to school campus was accomplished by Bill Gould‘s Artik Art & Architecture and Butler Construction. Classrooms are designed as flexible learning spaces, and 30 skylights and some large windows were added to bring natural light into the space. Southern Lumber’s dark brown exterior has been replaced by DCP’s orange and purple colors, with the entrances marked by large steel panels created by San Jose artist Scape Martinez.

The legacy of Southern Lumber isn’t being forgotten, either. A majestic oak tree that had to be removed was milled and recreated as the reception desk in the school office; Artist Ivan Axelson shaped a heart out of a piece of rare Pink Ivory wood — a gift from the Pohle family that operated Southern Lumber for about eight decades — that will be displayed in the Leo M. Shortino College Success Center. And Gould, in collaboration with glass artist Elise Ordorica Beal, is creating a colorful “Dream Tree” for the high school entrance.

“At a time where there are things happening around the world and around the country that cause concern, it’s important to be able to celebrate something that’s all good,” Lofgren said. “It’s remarkable that here we are today in a facility that’s better than any other high school that I’ve been to in the county.”

Downtown College Prep is already getting a nice welcome from its new neighborhood. Santa Clara Valley Brewing, which has its taproom right across Alma Avenue from the new school, is donating $1 from every draft beer purchased this weekend to help the school buy uniforms for its students. They’ll also have a jar out for anyone who wants to leave additional cash donations.

BRICK-TASTIC ART IN CAMPBELL: If you haven’t had a chance to see artist Patrick Hofmeister‘s piece in the window of Campbell boutique Simply Smashing, you’d better hurry. The installation — a bonsai tree created from Lego bricks, along with a Lego spider, two Lego TVs and paintings and sketches — is coming down at the end of the month.

A bonsai tree made of Lego bricks and pieces by artist Patrick Hofmeister is on display at Campbell boutique Simply Smashing. (Photo courtesy Patrick Hofmeister)
A bonsai tree made of Lego bricks and pieces by artist Patrick Hofmeister is on display at Campbell boutique Simply Smashing. (Photo courtesy Patrick Hofmeister) 

The tree was a painstaking piece to for Hofmeister to create, who spent about a month and a half sorting some 200 pounds of the bricks and other pieces with the help of friends. He was working 20 hours a day on the piece on the days leading up to the official opening date, and he continued working on the piece in the boutique window for two weeks.

“It was a really good experience, and I got to meet a lot of really enthusiastic Lego fans,” Hofmeister said. “I chose a tree for this medium because it’s one of the most natural things for me to create and I’m known for my trees.”

Simply Smashing owner Deb Rohzen says a new installation by artist Tulio Flores will grace the window starting in September.

LISTEN UP: South Bay musicians Dave Crane and Suzanne St. John-Crane have reached out to some of their friends to support music education in the Cambrian School District. And when you have friends like bluesman Tony Lindsay, Leo Rosales from
the Latin rock band Malo, Kid Andersen and Bert Javier of Animo Cruz, that means one heck of a concert.

“Cambrian Rocks” is set for Sept. 16 at the Cambrian Little League fields at Ross and Foxworthy avenues. The show runs from 1 to 4 p.m. and includes a silent auction and an instrument drive. The Hanna Group, Xilinix and Councilman Don Rocha’s office have already signed up as sponsors.

“Our Cambrian music teachers are fantastic, but they don’t have all of the resources they need,” says St. John-Crane, who is a district parent, too. “Our goal is to raise funds for instrument replacement and repair so that every child gets a music education.”

Tickets are $25 — kids 13 and under are free — and can be purchased at the gate or at www.cambrianrocks.com.

PIG POWER: When I wrote about Mel Cotton’s neon sign being donated to History San Jose, I expressed a hope that there would be room for the Stephens Meat dancing pig sign, which is in the path of any potential Google development near Diridon Station.

But Preservation Action Council board member Andre Luthard thinks it should stay exactly where it is and that Google should include the historic sign in its development plans. “We all know the sign is iconic and represents a period of time, perhaps a moment of time in San Jose,” he said. “Keeping it there and lighting it once again sure would be a great visual amenity to the high rises that are surely to be built all around it.”

One issue is that the sign — which is owned by the Successor Agency to the Redevelopment Agency — is already in deteriorating shape. If someone doesn’t start taking care of it soon, there may not be a sign left for Google or anyone else to use. Luthard wonders if it isn’t time for a “Save the Pig” campaign, and I think he’s oinking up the right tree.

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