Vets Hall committee narrows its options | March 27, 2009 | Danville Express | |

Danville Express

Newsfront - March 27, 2009

Vets Hall committee narrows its options

Veterans call for another plan proposal for building

by Geoff Gillette

Members of the Veterans Building Steering Committee have dismissed two of the three plans put forth by their architects for the downtown Veterans Hall, but asked for the architect to come back with another alternative before any decisions are made.

At their March 23 meeting, committee members discussed the merits of the three proposals presented by architects ARG two weeks earlier.

Committee members representing the veterans, seniors and community groups all seemed to gravitate toward Plan A, which would keep the existing two-story structure intact, while creating a new one-story addition behind.

The front portion of the structure, which faces onto Hartz Avenue, would be set aside for the veterans, with the group having its own private entry. The rear section would house the senior programs and its offices, and a center open area would be a communal space for use in fundraising activities and community programs.

While they did like the configuration, veterans officials said it is not precisely what they want.

"First of all," said Committee member John Estes, "we're the Veterans and we're not going to be at the end of the building."

Estes and fellow member Scott Perkins presented what they'd like to see in a proposed fourth building plan.

"We have a little more feeling about how we'd all like to be together on one floor," Perkins explained.

The pair acknowledged the historic significance of the front of the building, and said they'd like the vets to have the second floor of the structure for their offices, meeting rooms and lounge.

"The expectation was that would be the second floor so the veterans can be isolated," Estes stated.

The proposal received support from some residents in attendance. John Reese, who belongs to Viet Nam Veterans, VFW and American Legion, addressed the committee and called on them to keep in mind that the facility they are designing is a Veterans hall.

"This is a Veterans building. It always has been and always will be a Veterans building. Veterans have priority and their usage should come first," he said.

He implored the committee to make use of the opportunity to do something special for veterans and suggested that they make the facility as up to date as possible.

"It has to be modern, for the veterans of the future. They're the ones who are going to be using it," he said.

Seniors were well represented among the public as well. Linda Stolow reminded the committee that it needs to be mindful of senior needs.

"I know this whole thing is about compromise. I just want to make sure the seniors don't get short shrifted someplace. We must look to the future, and the future says the senior population is going to grow," she said.

Danville historian Beverly Lane complimented the committee on its process and its inclusivity in seeking input from as many people as possible. She did remind them that the building they are discussing is something that has been in people's lives for a very long time.

"History is about real people building real things," she said.

Lane talked about the Root family's involvement in the Veterans Hall as well as other Danville residents. Their pasts and the memory of their involvement makes the building a special place.

"There can be real magic in walking through a building. It evokes a shared memory. Don't tear down even a little part of it without thinking about that," she warned.

Other issues discussed were whether to take down the trees currently surrounding the building, the size of the kitchen and whether it will be able to accommodate programs like senior lunches and meals on wheels, and how to preserve the community path that runs alongside the rear of the property.

After the public comment session ended, ARG representatives responded to the concerns, saying that they could put together another proposal to reflect the veterans' wishes.

"We could design something to put the veterans on one level and the seniors on another," said ARG Planner Phil Rossetti. "It would be more compact, which would mean more inexpensive."

Committee members directed ARG to draft the additional option for them to examine at the next meeting, and said that they would continue to look at the elevation of the project, how the trees would factor in and other issues raised by the community.

"This is good that we're getting all of this feedback from the community," said ARG Principal Naomi Miroglio. "The more we understand what the community wants for the building, the better we can plan."

Committee member Candace Andersen agreed. "I do like the direction we're going in," she said. "I think it's a very worthy idea to explore having all of the veterans' staff on the second floor."

The committee will examine the new option and continue to discuss the functionality and features of the renovated Veterans Hall at the next meeting, at 6:30 p.m., Monday, April 13.