Committee chooses plan for Veterans Hall | April 17, 2009 | Danville Express | |

Danville Express

Newsfront - April 17, 2009

Committee chooses plan for Veterans Hall

Veterans will have both floors at front of building

by Geoff Gillette

Architects will be moving forward with the design and planning for the renovation and expansion of the Veteran's Hall in downtown Danville, after the Veterans Building Steering Committee approved a preliminary plan Monday.

Over the past several weeks, the committee has looked at four different plans for the historic structure, all designed to accommodate not just the veterans but also the town's senior programs and rental uses such as weddings and classes.

At its April 13 meeting, the committee needed to make a choice between Schemes A and D. Scheme D is the plan the veterans asked for that would put all of their offices and facilities solely on the second floor of the building. The seniors would have areas on the first floor as well as some storage.

Scheme A split the veterans rooms between the first and second floor and housed the group in the front of the hall, facing out to Hartz Avenue. The seniors would have an entrance and a promenade on Prospect Avenue with their programs being in the rear of the building. Both uses would be connected by the main hall, which could be used by both groups or rented out for events.

The committee deviated from its normal procedure of holding public comment until the last part of the discussion. In their consideration of the two schemes they allowed the public to comment first, then committee members had their say on the designs before getting responses from the architects.

Danville resident Paula Boswell spoke briefly to the committee, asking that they consider adding a military library to one of the rooms currently on the plan.

"John (Boswell's late husband) amassed a lot of books on the Pacific War. I feel that it's an absolute must for the many veterans who come through that they have reference works," she said.

Linda Stolow, a senior advocate, called on the committee and the architects to spend more time examining the kitchen size. She said she had done some research on the kitchens used by other senior centers and felt that information might be useful in planning.

"I just think we want to make sure there is enough kitchen space for the people they are going to be serving," she explained.

After the public hearing, committee members representing the various groups made their comments. Veterans representative John Estes started, since the veterans were the only group that had a chance to meet to discuss the two schemes prior to the Monday meeting.

He said that even though the veterans had requested scheme D, after seeing the layout they would rather stay with the A plan.

"I think we pretty much came to the agreement that Plan A is what we want," he said, adding, "A comment Newell (Danville Mayor Newell Arnerich) said kind of stuck with me. This is a veteran's building. The front of the building is going to be saved. The front of the building, first and second floor, is going to be for veterans."

Scott Perkins, also representing the veterans, agreed. "'A' clearly meets our needs better, but there are a couple of things," he stated. Perkins suggested that a pair of unisex bathrooms be added to the second floor.

He also recommended that the porches envisioned for the Hartz Avenue side be raised above ground level. "You want it to be unintrusive but you want it to project out," he explained.

Representatives of the seniors and other community groups agreed that Scheme A held the most promise and asked that the restroom and kitchen situations be looked at as well.

Town Councilwoman Candace Andersen applauded the choice of Scheme A and said the suggestions made were all of high caliber.

"I love the idea of the library, and I'm delighted that the veterans get to keep the original space," she enthused.

Architects ARG took the floor at that point and discussed the issues being raised and how best to deal with them. Architect Phil Rossetti sketched out some preliminary plans of how they might incorporate the requests being made regarding the bathrooms and the kitchen size.

"I think the crux is we have limitations in budget, land and boundaries," he said. "Every time we push the boundaries of the community hall we push the boundaries of the bathrooms, kitchen. What we're looking for is a way to proportionately come to a happy place."

Rossetti said that as they try to adapt the design to the specific requests of the committee it is likely that the main hall will lose some square footage. The current main hall has 2,200 square feet, the new plan has 2,800 square feet, and Rossetti said that in order to provide the changes they may have to drop it down by 100-200 square feet.

ARG Principal Naomi Miroglio added that the architects are looking for the committee to confirm that it is understood that program space may be reduced in order to increase non-program areas. "We need to know we're not throwing the baby out with the bath water," she said.

Mayor Arnerich said he believes they are all on the same page and he is confident that when ARG brings back the plans for the proposed Veterans Hall it will be something that will work well for everyone involved.

With a scheme approved, Miroglio said the work will now begin in earnest. At the next Vets Hall meeting, April 27, ARG will bring in consultants to meet with the committee to go over the possibilities of what can be accomplished with the given scheme and to begin work on fleshing out the preliminary design.