The future of the Vets Hall | September 19, 2008 | Danville Express | |

Danville Express

Perspective - September 19, 2008

The future of the Vets Hall

Danville assumed ownership of the Veterans Memorial Building yesterday, Sept. 18, taking it over from Contra Costa County. Negotiations for the change in ownership moved slowly but surely forward, thanks to the agreement of officials that it made sense for the town to own the old Vets Hall on Hartz Avenue and Prospect.

Veterans buildings blossomed under a 1921 federal mandate to build facilities to honor and host veterans of the Great War, and the Danville hall was dedicated in 1925. It has served many purposes over the decades, hosting lively American Legion shows during the 1940s and 1950s, and acting as the library and even as a courthouse. The veterans had been subleasing the building to Danville since 1983 for a senior center and other civic uses.

As the veterans buildings began to age, communities made different decisions on what to do with them. Some cities, such as Pleasanton, renovated them completely, dedicating millions of dollars to bring them up to earthquake and Americans with Disabilities Act standards. Walnut Creek and Lafayette razed their old buildings to free up the prime downtown real estate, and their veterans groups joined to build a state of the art facility in Lafayette. The veterans of the San Ramon Valley explored venues with an eye toward a new building to serve them as well as related groups such as veterans' services and the Blue Star Moms. But the historic central location in downtown Danville won out.

The town has committed $5 million toward design and construction, and the Veterans Memorial Building Development Committee of San Ramon Valley has pledged to raise another $2 million. This week the town approved appointing a steering committee to develop a consensus on how to reconstruct the building, with two members each from veterans groups; the Town Council; the senior subcommittee of the Parks and Leisure Services Commission; the Heritage Resource Commission; and the Planning Commission/Design Review Board. The goal is to create a first class facility to serve our veterans, and the needs of the seniors and the greater community.

Now the debate begins as to what can be saved of the old building, what needs to be changed, and how best to serve all the vested groups. Anyone with an interest may want to attend the meeting of the steering committee. After all, the building now belongs to Danville.


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