At their final meeting Monday, nine members of the committee discussed the latest iteration of the plan from architectural consultants ARG. The building, which has fluctuated between 12,000 and 14,000 square feet, will end up being 12,700 square feet; the front of the building will be dedicated to veterans groups, the rear to senior programs, and the center will be a community hall for either group or rented out to the public.
Committee members were complimentary of the final product, which added features including a rear entry for seniors to give them closer access to parking and another restroom in the senior rooms.
Despite the overall approval, both the committee and many of the 30 people in attendance had questions regarding the plan. One concern brought up by several people was the concept of a movable stage. Some felt a fixed stage in the community area would be best, while others suggested a "Murphy bed" approach that would have the stage fold down from the walls.
Mayor Newell Arnerich, an architect by profession, explained that they decided to go with a sectional, removable stage so they would have the flexibility to use it when it was needed and to store it at other times. He said having that flexibility will also allow the various groups to use a partial stage simultaneously if the community hall is subdivided.
Basement storage was another serious concern. Steve Mick suggested that the plan include either lockers or cages for each group's storage. "Good fences make good neighbors," he joked.
Veteran John Reese took Mick's suggestion one step further, saying that if there is any extra money after the bids come back they should use it to increase the storage area in the basement.
During the public comment section, committee members heard mostly positive comments but there were still issues that some residents feel hadn't been addressed. Resident Linda Stolow reiterated her concern that the Prospect Avenue portion of the building, which sports a lot of glass and metal, is too contemporary for the downtown.
Stolow reiterated her call for taking the seniors out of the mix and moving them to the Danville Community Center and holding the center's programs at the Vets Hall instead. "I've been saying that for 12 years," she stated. "I'll say it for 12 more."
On a practical note, she asked where the various groups and programs would be housed while the construction on the building is taking place.
Town Manager Joe Calabrigo explained that they initially considered renting space to house the programs but will instead break up the programs and house them in different town facilities.
Taking down the redwood trees from around the building and replacing them also raised the ire of some residents.
"We're disappointed that the redwood trees are gone," said Claude Benedix. "We feel they're a significant asset to the Town and to the Veterans Hall and should have stayed."
Town historian Beverly Lane commended the architects on the work but said she felt that they were trying to do too much in a limited space. She also said she wanted to know if enough consideration was given to the historical nature of the building.
"We're already removing a large percentage of the building, so that face is important," she said. "Would this building be able to meet national register qualifications or because we're changing it so much are we foreclosing that opportunity."
Other issues raised concerned the proximity of the building to the lot line along Prospect, as well as at the rear, and the effect it would have on foot traffic utilizing the corridor near Prospector Square.
Committee members said they would examine the issue and see if building heights could be used to mitigate the effect of having the building fill so much of the lot.
Arnerich joined the committee in doling out congratulations not only to the committee, residents and town staff but to ARG personnel for their work in taking several different viewpoints and trying to massage them all together.
"This is the first design project we've had where we didn't fire the design architect or wear them out to where they wanted to quit," he quipped.
Calabrigo said he was pleased with the turnout at the meetings and the comments they've received on the plans. "What I think you've been hearing this evening is that there continues to be a lot of feedback and a lot of opinions and a lot of caring about the project."
Calabrigo said that while Monday's meeting may have been the last for the committee, it is not the end for the Veterans Hall project.
"The committee's task may be winding down for the time being, but this is where the Design Review process picks up," he said. "The committee's finished the project just like a developer would, and now it goes through the town's approval process."
Arnerich expressed his confidence in the plan and how it would fare in the approval process.
"I think we hit a homerun in being able to integrate all the needs of the community and keep it downtown," he said. "We've invested a lot of money in keeping our downtown vital and this is going to be one of the integral parts."
If all goes according to plan, officials say they could be going out for bid on the project by December or January.