When TRACES took possession of "Big Blue" on 11 September 2009 the 5,135-square-foot "ark" (with two, two-stall garages!) had been empty for a year and the only colored walls were in the bathrooms. With a shifting array of volunteers and staff, director Michael Luick-Thrams totally renovated the site by the Center's open house on 11 October—and in the process lost 15 pounds! Life at Big Blue at first was like Modern Day Pioneering—or at least camping: it took five days to get electricity turned on, a week to get phone/internet service and ten days to get the water system restored—and then it had a half-dozen leaks, having not been properly winterized when it was closed.
pancake brunch November 2009
scenery around Burr Oak Center
open house October 2009
views from Big Blue's deck
before and after photos of Big Blue
before and after photos of the White House
meetings with community leaders September 2009
TRACES office and flat in Saint Paul
Burr Oak Center members and resident interns, as well as primary partners, may use this space in Saint Paul's Merriam Park neighborhood two weekends or one full week, every six months. [These photos were taken during the previous owner's occupancy; it looks different today—not so empty... and the Buddha's gone. (Sorry!)] Director Michael Luick-Thrams takes special pride in the "edible landscape" he has established since moving onto the property since August 2007: there are apricot and cherry trees, rhubarb and asparagus beds, numerous berry (rasp-, blue-, lingon, Russian Honey) and red-/black-current bushes, and a swelling strawberry bed. "Hostas an' lawn be gone!"