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Veterans Memorial Commission Selects RDG Architects

Veterans Memorial Commission Selects RDG Architects

By Michael McAllister

The city of Grinnell, in 2013, enlisted the service of RDG Planning and Design, an architectural firm with offices throughout the Midwest, as part of the plan to improve the city’s downtown business district and Central Park.

That association led to the façade rehabilitation project, the Central Park renovation, and the firm’s close association with Grinnell.

But, despite extensive planning, major grants, and large-scale fundraising, one structure remained untouched—the Veterans Memorial Building in the northwest corner of Central Park.

RDG Planning and Design may return to that section of the park because, at its regular June meeting, the Veterans Memorial Commission chose to begin negotiations with the architectural firm to transition the Veterans Memorial Building into the Prairie Star Artist Residency, assuming fundraising activities go according to plans.

Two companies responded to Grinnell’s request for proposals to renovate the building—RDG and CMBA. Special meetings to consider presentations were held on May 31 (RDG) and on June 5 (CMBA).  Not all commission members were able to attend both sessions. Discussion of the presentations and the ultimate approval of a motion to select RDG comprised the major portion of the Veterans Memorial Commission’s June 11 meeting.

Before the selection of a design company, the commission dealt with routine business.

Chairperson Leo Lease was unable to attend the meeting.  Vice Chair Randy Hotchkin served in his place.  Eleven people made up the audience.

Following roll call and agenda approval, the minutes of the commission’s May 14 regular meeting and the June 5 special meeting were also approved.  Minutes of the May 31 special session were not available.

Commission members Randy Hotchkin, left, and Terry Stringfellow

Discussion followed about the monthly budget report and the Greater Poweshiek Community Foundation balance. Nicole Brua-Behrens of the foundation reported that $33,936 have been raised, of which $12,508 remain.  A payment to Amperage Marketing for fundraising preparation accounts for the bulk of expenditures.

As discussion of fund balances continued, it was noted that the city of Grinnell has advanced the commission $25,000 and that levy funds should start becoming available this fall.

Two bills were approved for payment:  Alliant Energy for $86.93 and $75.91.  No energy bill was submitted last month, which accounts for the June double listing.

The commission received an update on fundraising preparation progress from Tom Lacina.  Amperage Marketing continues its assessment of community knowledge about the project and community support of the project.  Amperage’s findings should be available in a presentation by early August.

No fundraising activities are in effect currently.  Plans for a golf tournament at Lynnville did not work out, Randy Hotchkin reported, but might be resumed next year.

Hotchkin also interjected that plans have been discussed for a flag-raising ceremony at the Veterans Memorial Building on the Fourth of July.  Contact with the city will follow to coordinate with the parade.  Hotchkin reported people asking him, “Why isn’t there a flag up there?”

Commission members Marie Andrews, left, and Gwen Rieck

Agenda item number 8:  Consider approval of architectural services firm for the Grinnell Veterans Memorial Building renovation.

Initially, the commission discussed deferring the decision since Leo Lease was not present.  Tom Lacina pointed out, however, that time is becoming a significant factor if the general schedule is to be met.  To negotiate with a firm and obtain materials for fundraising by, roughly, Veterans Day this November, a decision on a firm would be better sooner rather than later.  “It would be nice,” Lacina stated, if “all parts of the puzzle could be in place by early September.”

As discussion continued, commission members who had seen both presentations—and Mayor Dan Agnew, a member of the audience—felt that RDG’s proposal was the more detailed of the two.  RDG, principals noted, had presented conceptual drawings of a Veterans Memorial Building renovation plan approximately four years ago, and the company is intimately familiar with Central Park and downtown Grinnell, having designed the park and the façade improvement project.

Additional comments stressed that the decision is not necessarily final but that it begins a negotiation process that can be reversed if necessary.  The consensus further noted that there would likely be little difference in the final cost estimates from the firms.

When commission member Terry Stringfellow made a motion that “we vote for beginning negotiations with RDG,” the motion was quickly seconded and unanimously approved.

The process of negotiation was the next agenda item, and the commission approved City Manager Russ Behrens “to act as contract negotiation agent…for architectural contract development with approved firm.”

In addition, the commission approved the Grinnell Area Arts Council as the entity to “develop an organizational and operational framework for the Prairie Star Residency as a proposed future occupant of the Grinnell Veterans Memorial Building.”

There were no inquiries.

The next meeting of the Veterans Memorial Commission is scheduled for July 9 at 5:15 p.m. in the Community Room at the Drake Library.

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