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Pizarro: Makeover lifts downtown San Jose building out of the gutter

The modern look of Liquid Agency’s San Jose office on South First Street was honored recently for contributing to the beautification of downtown. And that’s a heck of a turnaround for a site that was part of San Jose’s seedy red-light district not long ago.

Originally built in the late 1800s, the two-story brick building at 477 S. First St. was known in the 1980s as L’Amour Shoppe, an adult bookstore that closed down in the mid-1990s during a wave of downtown redevelopment.

After brand-marketing company Liquid Agency bought the building, it got a modern makeover by JCA Architects in 2007. The San Jose Downtown Association’s Golden Nail committee recognized the work with its new Downtown Beautification award at its annual meeting Dec. 10. Now that’s a great job of rebranding a place.

Just to be clear, this isn’t the big Golden Nail award that the downtown association has given to San Jose restoration projects since 1997 and which is now named for late developer Jim Fox.

Downtown Association spokesman Rick Jensen said the committee decided not to present that award for 2010 because of a lack of worthy completed projects.

The Journey Christian Church in South San Jose had some astounding results for its fifth annual AIDS caregiver kit drive this month.

Lead Pastor Jeff Wenke said the church needed to raise $30,000 to send 1,000 caregiver kits — containing items like petroleum jelly, washcloths, pain relievers, cotton balls, pens and notebooks — to Zimbabwe. But church members also hoped to raise an additional $30,000 to fund a new classroom for a school in Limpopo, Zimbabwe.

Volunteers, including many from the Billy De Frank LGBT Community Center and students from Pioneer High School (where the church meets), provided donations and assembled the kits Dec. 12. The church exceeded its goals and raised $72,000.

There’s no shortage of compassion at Notre Dame High School in San Jose. For the eighth year in a row, the girls’ Roman Catholic school donated hand-knit items for homeless and needy teenagers.

Students, teachers and staff members made 94 scarves and 12 hats. They were given to Gifts for Teens, a project of the American Association of University Women, and distributed to youths through the Bill Wilson Center in Santa Clara, Sacred Heart Community Service in San Jose and EHC LifeBuilders in Milpitas.

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