http://danvillesanramon.com/print/story/print/2009/04/10/vets-hall-committee-nears-decision-point


DanvilleSanRamon.com

Newsfront - April 10, 2009

Vets Hall committee nears decision point

Questions from public focus on usage and costs

by Geoff Gillette

Progress is being reported in the effort to renovate the historic Danville Veteran's Hall, as the committee in charge of the redesign has narrowed its options with an eye toward making a decision next week.

Members of the Veteran's Building Steering Committee met Monday to go over a new design requested from architects ARG. The request, which came from the veterans at the last committee meeting, asked that all of the veterans' facilities be confined to the second story of the building. They also asked to have a private entry that would allow them to hold events at the same time as other groups.

At the Monday meeting, ARG presented Scheme D, a plan that did indeed place all veterans offices and meeting rooms on the second floor, while splitting the first floor between senior program space and the large community hall.

Committee members were shown the pros and cons of the new design space as well as Scheme A, which was the other plan that had gained some support.

Town Manager Joe Calabrigo prefaced the review of the two plans by explaining that they were rough estimates of how the buildings would be laid out.

"As you discuss these," he said, "please keep in mind these all have room for changes." He suggested that members note areas they feel could be tweaked to better accommodate the three uses sharing the building.

ARG architect Philip Rossetti explained that in Scheme A, the veterans are housed in the front of the building on the first and second floors. They would be able to enter either through Hartz Avenue or on Prospect. Senior programs are housed to the rear. Besides the veterans being split, another disadvantage is that all of the men's rooms are located on the second floor.

Scheme D puts the veterans entirely on the second floor and has the restroom facilities side by side. Senior space is slightly increased, and seniors would have some storage in the basement level. It does not provide a private entry for the veterans.

Concerns were raised over the square footages and the expected cost of building either of the plans. Estimated base cost of constructing A would be $6.48 million, and D would be $7.01 million. Budgets are calling for the construction to come in around $5 million. Estimates showed that in order to hit that budget figure they would need to reduce Scheme A by 1,000 square feet and Scheme D by 2,000 square feet.

"Do either of these designs lend themselves better to shrinking than the other?" asked Councilwoman Candace Andersen, a member of the committee.

Rossetti replied that it would cut down on the community hall space but it could be done.

"Shrinking spaces isn't always the best idea," interjected ARG Principal Naomi Miroglio. "Sometimes it's better to look at what spaces you can do without."

During the public hearing portion of the meeting, veterans advocate Mike Conklin put forth some strong opinions. He said concerns over square footage should be set aside in order to give the veterans what they will need.

"You're the city ... invoking special circumstances is your prerogative. This seems like one of those times," he stated.

Conklin also called into question the decision to maintain the historic front portion of the hall rather than tearing down the structure and starting over.

"This building has served its purpose," he said. He added that the cost of the project would be diminished by building a brand new structure.

Veteran John Reese took the architects to task on Scheme D. "Plan D was brought up by the veterans, and I think it got lost in translation. Somehow in Plan D, the seniors got the porch and the balcony and not the veterans. It seems like the seniors got more square footage and the veterans got cut back. This is a veterans building," he said.

Business owner and senior advocate Linda Stolow called on the committee and the architects to think of the big picture of downtown Danville in their planning.

"Danville is considered a small quaint downtown. Putting two big buildings side by side makes me nervous," she said.

She also called for a smaller building footprint that would allow an access road around the building for vehicles dropping off items for events in the community hall.

"Do it right, do it once," she stated regarding the budget. "And if we have to go out to the community to ask for nickels and dimes and quarters to build that I am willing to do it and volunteer my time for this."

Mayor Newell Arnerich answered some of the concerns and directed staff to look at others. In regards to tearing down the existing building, Arnerich stated flatly that option "is not on the table." In the area of budgeting and getting the building they want within that spending plan, he assured residents that they would work out the logistics of the structure and they would do it within budget.

"As much as we'd all like to say 'it costs what it costs,' well that's the way the state of California got into the shape it is," he stated.

He also assured the veterans that this is their building and they have no intention of it being anything other than a veterans' facility with some seniors space.

Arnerich said that over the next week, representatives of the veterans, the seniors and the town will be meeting to discuss how each of these plans could work and what will be done to make them functional.

"We're looking for a lot of input from the veterans," he said. "This is going to lead us where we're heading."

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