Danville Express

Newsfront - October 12, 2007

Veterans want to stay on original downtown site

Consultant creating plan for new building to accommodate veterans and related activities

by Jordan M. Doronila

Danville war veterans are planning to build a bigger and better home - in the same old location.

The Danville Town Council at its meeting last week allocated $75,000 to the Veterans Memorial Building Development Committee to hire a consultant to help create a plan for building a veterans hall on the existing site on Hartz Avenue in downtown Danville. VenueTech has been hired.

The committee has members from Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 75 and American Legion 246, plus others from World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War.

They have been working for two years to find a place that fits veteran and community needs, said Town Manager Joe Calabrigo. They were considering a new building at a different location because the old one is wearing down. But they are now going to keep the old vets' hall location because it is convenient and has historical value.

"It would be great for everybody," said Tony Carnemolla, development committee president. "It would be a win for all concerned. It's a great site we are sitting on. Hey, this is the proper place. We don't have to worry about parking."

"Some of the veterans as well as segments of our community have formed an attachment to the location and certain aspects of the existing building," Calabrigo said. "It's right smack in the heart of downtown Danville."

Contra Costa County owns the old hall and leases it to the VFW and the American Legion in Danville. The hall is approximately 6,300-square-feet on a 13,600-square-foot lot on the southeast corner of Hartz and East Prospect avenues. The building also houses the Danville senior program.

The committee plans to raise money, and some members hope to keep the building's facade and tear down the rest of the structure. It would erect a new and larger building with an elevator, a full basement, sharper acoustics, advanced wiring and an interior resistant to earthquakes. In addition to veterans, the new facility would be used by other community groups.

The building, which opened in 1925, is a historic site in Danville and for many years was used for dances and other entertainment in the community.

"If that building could talk, it could tell you wonderful stories," Carnemolla said. "This building is 85 years old."

The town has already pledged $750,000 to the committee toward building a suitable veterans facility; the project is part of the town's Capital Improvement Program.

Calabrigo said another idea for the project would involve the county giving the hall to Danville as Alameda County did when it gave the city of Pleasanton its downtown veterans building, which just completed a $4.8 million restoration. The Town of Danville would then be involved in making significant renovations.

Town officials have not made any structural changes in the past decade, Calabrigo said. It would cost too much to make serious renovations and the county owns the property. But the town pays for the building's upkeep and has made modifications over the past 15 years, such as building a ramp and cosmetic changes.

"Anything that needs to be done to the building, we do it," Calabrigo said.

The veterans said they appreciate the town's help.

"We owe a debt of thanks for what they have done to it," Carnemolla said.

Town officials noted the hall is safe to use in its present form.

"Obviously, we don't think it poses a risk for anyone," Calabrigo said.

"It's a safe building. It's a functional building," said Councilwoman Candace Andersen. "If we thought it was going to collapse, we wouldn't have our programs there."

However, everyone agreed the building is approaching the end of its useful life, and the time is now to look at revamping the veterans' hall.

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