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WORKS readies for move back to downtown San Jose

By Ann Elliott Sherman

ALTHOUGH 13 OTHER tenants of the Jackson Street warehouse WORKS calls home have been relocated to make way for a mixed-use, retail and housing complex that the San Jose Redevelopment Agency is developing, finding a suitable space for the alternative gallery posed a particular challenge. According to Rich Barbaccia of the city's Real Estate Division, it was virtually impossible to find any vacant space in San Jose's core area where greater foot traffic would increase the gallery's exposure. "Either the rents were ridiculously high even without the needed amenities, or the only available space was in Newark," Barbaccia says. The solution was virtually under Barbaccia's nose: an 8,000-square-foot storage facility at 30 N. Third St. visible from his office window.

WORKS' vice-president and chair of the relocation project Alyssa Erickson acknowledges that gaining an additional 5,000 square feet of space is quite a stretch for the nonprofit arts organization, in more ways than one. "Because the city is moving us, we have to meet code requirements, which means that fire exits and restroom facilities for the disabled have to be built," she explains. "The owners, Lloyd and Helen Ebert, are trying to help us get in."

WORKS' new home--which just got the go-ahead over the weekend--will be the San Jose historic landmark known as the Sperry Flour Building. Originally the site of a flour mill established in 1854, the building was later sold to a milling company in which David Moody was a major investor. Moody bought out his partners and started the Sperry Flour Company in 1892. The mill continued to operate on North Third until 1898, when Moody hired noted Prairie-style architect Frank Delos Wolfe's firm to convert the site into Sperry's South Bay distribution center. Five years later, freight cars began passing through the wrought-iron gates that are still a prominent part of the building's facade today.

WORKS is soliciting tax-deductible donations of money, materials or labor for its proposed facility; call 408/295-8378 for details. After a couple of months prep time, the new WORKS is set to open in mid-March, according to board president Terry Acebo Davis. The group will say good-bye to its Jackson Street space Friday (Dec. 20) at its Silent Night Auction.

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From the December 19-25, 1996 issue of Metro

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