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A space for Kids Unlimited

A flood of donations will help an overwhelmed nonprofit as it renovates a former Medford bowling alley into a community center for local youth.

We're basically doing a million dollars worth of work for about half that amount, said Jim Pinkert, general contractor for the Kids Unlimited project on Riverside Avenue north of downtown. It's been a real awesome community effort.

Kids Unlimited, a nonprofit that provides after-school care and other services to about 1,000 youths each week, is moving out of its former building at — E. Main St. It hopes to be in the 32,000-square-foot bowling alley at 821 N. Riverside Ave. by the end of February.

Donations so far include 600 sheets of plywood from the Home Improvement Center in Grants Pass and almost 800 gallons of paint and primer from Miller Paint Co. in Medford. Pinkert said subcontractors also are charging less for their work.

Converting the bowling lanes and miniature golf area to include a music hall, karate studio, arts and crafts area, lounge, arcade, new restrooms and offices has been more challenging than anyone imagined.

— Fire sprinklers, new walls, new plumbing and bringing everything up to current building code have all added to the costs.

Just the demolition alone has been more than anything else, said Pinkert, a 58-year-old Phoenix resident. I've enjoyed working on it, but it's been pretty taxing on me.

He halted demolition work on the west side of the building when it became clear that funds were running low as they worked to complete renovations on the front half.

Tom Cole, Kids Unlimited's executive director, said a loan of &

36;1.3 million from U.S. Bank was used to pay &

36;900,000 toward the property's &

36;1.7 million purchase price, leaving about &

36;400,000 for the remodel. The bowling alley was formerly owned by Roy Rider.

Cole said he needs to eliminate the old lease on Main Street, which costs the nonprofit &

36;11,000 a month. That will free up badly needed money for operating costs.

But before Cole can end the lease, his landlord, Reginald Breeze, wants him to paint the interior walls of the 22,000-square-foot building, known as VIBES Main 1.

During the move, Kids Unlimited has suspended all of its dance and art classes and all weekend activities. After-school programs are still being conducted at local schools.

Our whole operation is having to be shifted, he said. It's exciting, but it's a lot of work.

While donations of materials have helped, Kids Unlimited is faced with the magnitude of the renovation and the need to have a building for the 1,000 kids it serves each week.

We need more help, said Cole.

Once the first phase of renovation is complete, Kids Unlimited plans to convert the back half of the building ' almost 14,000 square feet ' into a computer lab, education center, full kitchen and gymnasium with a college-sized basketball court. Drawings for the project were prepared by Ogden Kistler Architecture at a reduced rate.

To build the basketball court, Cole said that portion of the building, including a massive curved roof, will have to be lifted almost 20 feet to provide proper clearance.

Kids Unlimited officials have started a fund-raising campaign called Raise the Roof, and will hold fund-raisers after they move into the building.

All told, Cole said it will cost about &

36;3 million to complete the purchase and finish remodeling.

Jane McAlvage, who works for Kids Unlimited part time, looked over the new building Friday, marveling at the large music hall and other features.

Where do you find something this big so close to everything? she said.

Downtown Medford buildings remain hot property, broker says

With the VIBES Main — building in need of a new tenant, it joins several buildings in downtown Medford with For Lease signs out in front.

Scott Henselman, broker for Henselman Realty and Management, said it might appear that there are a lot of empty buildings in the downtown area, but the vacancy rate is running at just — percent.

Two of the more notably empty buildings ' the Cuthbert Building at Central Avenue and Sixth Street, and the Franklin Building on Central Avenue adjacent to the main Rogue Community College building ' are in the process of being renovated, said Henselman, who manages many downtown properties.

Also, a large project under construction at Main and Fir streets should fill quickly given the current state of the economy and the interest in downtown Medford, he said. The first phase is for a publicly owned parking structure, with three private commercial phases to follow.

I'm getting a call a day for people looking for downtown property, he said. A year ago I wouldn't get one call every two weeks.

As for the VIBES building, owned by Reginald Breeze, Henselman said it's an eyesore and he would recommend to the Medford Urban Renewal Agency that it be torn down.

I want to see it demolished, he said. To me it's a big ugly box. It's outlived its usefulness.

Breeze couldn't be reached for comment Friday.

In its place, Henselman would like to see it become part of the proposed Evergreen Way, a planned pedestrian-friendly street to be built on the south side of the train tracks that divide downtown.

Helping hands

Major donations to Kids Unlimited through the efforts of Victory Challenge, a Christian-based organization that helps people with drug problems:

Home Improvement Center in Grants Pass ' 600 sheets of plywood.

Rogue Pacific Lumber ' lumber at cost.

Norton Lumber in Phoenix ' lumber at cost.

LTM Inc. ' concrete.

Miller Paint in Medford ' 350 gallons of soft white paint and 440 gallons of primer.

An unconfirmed donation of all carpet and vinyl flooring.

To make a donation, call Kids Unlimited at 774-3900, or write to Kids Unlimited, — E. Main St., Medford, OR 97501.

Office space for Kids Unlimited is framed in part of the nonprofit?s new home being renovated at a former bowling alley on Riverside Avenue. In the background, Jim Pinkert, general contractor, talks to Rio Communications salesman Dan McCollum. Mail Tribune / Bob Pennell - Mail Tribune Bob Pennell