Guest opinion: Vets Hall plan is inappropriate | July 31, 2009 | Danville Express | |

Danville Express

Perspective - July 31, 2009

Guest opinion: Vets Hall plan is inappropriate

by Joe Dana

As my U.S.M.C. Footlocker is housed in the Veterans Memorial Building, I am interested in the future of this building. In reviewing the plans for its "Rehabilitation and Addition," my opinion is that it is neither a good plan nor a bad plan, but it is an inappropriate plan.

Under the guise of modernizing the Veterans Memorial Building, we are plunking down a huge multi-use edifice in downtown Danville. Read the July 23 agenda of the Design Review Board meeting. The request is for a 6,089-square-foot addition to the existing 6,625-square-foot building, and three separate variances to the Town's Downtown Business District Ordinance.

These variances cover everything from pushing the front and the side of the Vet's Hall forward in the first case, and to the sidewalk in the second case. All nine redwood trees mainly on the side of the property and the two cedar trees that provide the ambiance and shade to the front of the Vet's Hall are to be removed.

Red warning flags should have gone up on this project a long time ago. Beverly Lane is correct that we are attempting to do too much with this small building. Two platform terraces are to be built on the front of the Vet's Hall. Their height, including their walls and railings, bury the existing staircase and visually cut off from view the bottom half of the "historic entrance." They completely change the front appearance of the building.

I took my set of the plans and sat across Hartz Avenue and looked at the front of the building. If the left platform is not built and the wall dropped from the right platform to only use railings, this desecration is alleviated. Leave the cedar trees alone.

Although we are supposed to be "retaining the historic front portion of the building," we are not doing it. Please do not expect these modifications to happen. This is a minor adjustment.

The biggest problem is that the overall concept is too inclusive. Rather than accommodating the tri-use of veterans, community and senior center, eliminate the senior center portion of the building. At a previous meeting, Town Manager Joe Calabrigo explained that during construction, senior activities will be housed in different town facilities. Good, keep them there.

Why? So the 225 people attending community center functions have more outdoor space to mill about as they exit the three doors onto Prospect Avenue. They would then have the sidewalk and back area of the building to hang out in. This would double the outdoor space available. This would also eliminate the need for a variance so that 44 feet of the side of the building can encroach to the edge of the sidewalk on Prospect Avenue. And also the stage could be located at its correct location at the rear of the Vet's Hall rather than being in front of the entrance.

Although many thoughtful individuals and various representative groups are involved, and the process has been uniquely transparent and open, there is a lost focus. Rather than focus on the building itself and its unique site, we attempted to accommodate, to the maximum, all the wants and needs of everyone involved. It is now become a building "by Committee" and this juggernaut will not be modified, and cannot be stopped.

Joe Dana is a 40 year resident of Danville and was a 1st Lt. Infantry Platoon Leader in the U.S.M.C."


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