A groundbreaking ceremony for the ImagineU Interactive Children's Museum in Visalia will take place at 2 p.m. Wednesday.
It's one of several projects changing the look and feel of east downtown, where auto-related and industrial businesses gradually are being replaced by offices and public projects.
The 15,000- square-foot museum will rise on Tipton Street, one block east of the Visalia Transit Center. It will open in spring 2015.
A $5.4 million state nature's facility grant through Proposition 84 is paying for construction, which begins in March. Russ Taylor of The Taylor Group in Fresno is the architect.
Exhibits by Haizlip Studio of Tennessee will include "Majestic Oak Tree Climber," in which children climb inside the trunk and see nature displays on the way up.
Another is "Grove Pick and Pack," in which replica citrus can be picked, sorted and weighed. Outdoor exhibits, including one that will teach about water use and conservation, are planned.
Board of directors Chairwoman Cheryl Christman said a capital campaign to add a banquet room for community use is underway. The board is offering naming rights and recruiting corporate sponsorships.
Meanwhile, four other projects in east downtown are taking place, Visalia City Planner Josh McDonnell said.
<SC120,116>Quad Knopf Inc., a Visalia-based engineering and planning company, is moving to a building that formerly housed a gym and is being remodeled at East Main and Burke streets.
<SC120,116>A former hubcap store at Burke and Acequia Avenue is being made into an insurance company office.
<SC120,116>Family Health Care Network is expanding a clinic on Santa Fe Street north of the Transit Center.
<SC120,116>4 Creeks Engineering will occupy the former Premier Color Graphics building at Willow Avenue and Santa Fe Street.
"For 10 years, the city has been encouraging an extension of the downtown core," McDonnell said. "It's exciting to see professionals moving into that area."
COMPUTER XMAS: Last week, the Tulare County Board of Supervisors, Tulare County Office of Education, Visalia Rotary clubs and Office Depot delivered 110 free computers to children at 45 schools around the county. The students were nominated by school officials based on their character and good citizenship.
The county donated the surplus computers and matching flat screens. County staff tested them, erased sensitive files and installed fresh Windows XP operating systems.
VISALIA CHAMBER: The 33rd annual Christmas Tree Auction in Visalia raised more than $180,000 for charities and nonprofit groups, the Visalia Chamber of Commerce said.
The Visalia Rescue Mission raised $62,000 for its tree at a live auction, the highest of the evening.
In the silent auction, Habitat for Humanity of Tulare County and Kaweah Delta Hospice Foundation received $1,000 for their trees.
About 1,000 people attended the Dec. 6 event at the Visalia Convention Center.