City council, CVMD share plans for upcoming projects

An architectural rendering of the new senior center (left) and transit hub (right) to be built as part of a new civic center on the northeast corner of Clovis and Third avenues. Dwight Kroll, the city’s Director of Planning and Development Services, says the architecture of the buildings celebrate the lumber and railroad legacy of Clovis by utilizing the form of the old Clovis Lumber Yard building that sat on the site. (City of Clovis)

The Clovis City Council and Clovis Veterans Memorial District board held their first joint meeting in recent history on Feb. 12.

The meeting was eye-opening for both entities as they discussed joint projects and efforts and how well they are coming together. Of particular interest were plans shared by both agencies highlighting the facilities they are working on that will coexist in the area off of Third Street along both Clovis Avenue and Veterans Parkway.

City council members were enthused upon hearing CVMD CEO Lorenzo Rios outline plans for a barn-style structure to be located across from the current CVMD facility along Veterans Parkway. They were also impressed by plans for the former Gary O building on the corner of Clovis and Third, which will have a design that compliments the future senior center to be located adjacent to it at the east side, with the Old Town Trail running in between.

“There used to be that big red barn on the north end of Third Street and the design for this future facility is taking some of those attributes into consideration in making sure we don’t lose the past. But, in the process of keeping the past alive, we’re creating community structures that can accommodate future venues and bring people here to the local community,” Rios said.

The “barn” center will feature roll up glass doors that will make it possible for the venue to be opened up for casual affairs. Even classic car shows, Rios said, could be held inside and outside its walls as the flooring will be stained concrete. The interior, which can accommodate 500 people when closed, will also feature simple wood accents, and to the south, a beautiful glass window will frame the nearby water tower.

“I’m really encouraged by the architectural features because they incorporate our heritage here in Clovis,” Mayor Bob Whalen said. “I really like that barn. I promised my wife that at some point we’ll do a barn dance in Clovis and then the barn got torn down. But, now I think we’ll have another opportunity to do that.”

At the former Gary O building, which CVMD now officially owns, Rios said the district is looking at modifying the concept to create a memorial on the north end and move the entrance from off of Clovis toward the center. A patio will also be created to the east side, which will face the city’s new senior center. The senior center, according to the city’s director of planning and development, Dwight Kroll, will also have an outdoor space that faces the CVMD building, giving the two entities a prime place to collaborate future outdoor events along the trail.

“This is a collaboration between city staff and the district to make sure that the buildings complement each other,” Rios said. “As you see, the development of the senior center having an outdoor stage, having this patio across the trail [at our facility] would complement an event and this becomes another common space our community can come to celebrate.”

Meanwhile, the inside of the old Gary O building will feature a large meeting area that can accommodate up to 350 people along with conference rooms upstairs. Windows looking eastward will also frame the snow capped-mountains on a clear day.

As for the Heritage Center Museum originally planned for the Gary O location, Rios said the district is looking at putting that inside one of its existing warehouse centers along Veterans Parkway and Third Street—an area dubbed CVMD’s innovation center. The other warehouse will serve as a space for IdeaWorks. Upstairs, classrooms can be used for veteran workshops, IdeaWorks or by school groups having toured the museum. Offices will be available for those that provide services to veterans to have scheduled Clovis hours so veterans don’t need to travel to downtown Fresno or Veterans Affairs (VA) for job placement, training, counseling, and the like.

Rios said he anticipates the Heritage Center Museum opening in May or June this year. Beginning renovations on the old Gary O building’s north side should also be underway by that time.

On the city side, Kroll said the Landmark Commons area, which will house the new senior center, transit hub and library, is coming along in the design phase. While the county is a little behind with their library design, plans for the senior center and transit hub also pay homage to the history of Clovis and will coexist nicely with CVMD’s planned barn-like facility, museum, and renovated Gary O building.

The historical area, Kroll said, was the catalyst of the Old Town community “where the flume hit the railroad signaling the spark that hit the economic engine.” As such, Kroll said the design draws on the rich history of that space—it’s agriculture, the railroad, and the old lumber yard.

“The architecture is trying to get back that lumber yard railroad feel of the area. We’re trying to recapture that for this generation and for future generations,” Kroll said, pointing out that some of the exterior paneling on the senior center and transit hub will feature recycled roofing that was salvaged from the old Clovis lumber yard.

The 30,000 square-foot senior center will include a Saint Agnes clinic as well as common spaces for seniors to mingle and take courses in everything from art to exercise. The building will also feature a large ballroom space with a garage-style glass door—similar to those at the CVMD barn site—that can open to the west to expand into the outdoors where there is also an outdoor stage facing the CVMD Gary O building.

With the CVMD building having its outdoor patio to its east facing the senior center stage, Kroll said there is opportunity to have a double-sided stage linking the two jurisdictions for outdoor community events.

“We think that is really important in creating a sense of place there,” Kroll said.

In addition to the senior center, the 7,500 square-foot transit hub will create a true center for the community, where Stageline and Roundup buses will converge with the pedestrian and cyclist Old Town Trail.

“This may be the first regional transit-oriented development in the metropolitan area,” Kroll said.

Bringing it all together will be a roundabout on Third Street, around which the Old Town Trail will connect the currently disconnected portions of the trail that seemingly ends at Third Street. But, the trail actually picks up again by the current CVMD building, passing by its monuments remembering our heroes.

“I don’t think a lot of people realize the trail runs along Veterans Parkway on the west side and this is a way to amplify that trail through there and it does give us an opportunity to do some kind of gateway into the Veterans Memorial complex,” Kroll said.

The overall design of the city’s new facilities coinciding with the CVMD’s facilities is coming out beautifully, Kroll commented.

“As we put things together, sometimes the sum is greater than all the parts and I think this is an outstanding example of how these two agencies are coming together,” Kroll said.

In addition to these facilities, the two entities also discussed working together on bringing a national Iraq/Afghanistan memorial to Clovis as a remembrance of the great sacrifices made by those who have served from the area.

Rios also updated the council on some of the major CVMD highlights over the last year, including the success of two events, Freedom Fest and the Children’s Electric Christmas Parade, that were in danger of not continuing in 2017 had the district not stepped up to assist with those important community events.

The PBS Vietnam Live special shared on Veterans Day was also a great success and, earlier in the year, CVMD hosted the first national PBS conference held in the area which was so impressive to the PBS affiliates that the CEO committed to having one of the two PBS conferences held every year in Clovis.

“That was the impact that these affiliate members got by spending just a few days here in our community,” Rios said. “They fell in love. Everything we know about Americana that people think is something of the past, they discovered it’s very much still alive here in Clovis.”

The dean of admissions from West Point, who recently visited, has also committed to have the college’s annual roadshow in Clovis in 2019 and likely many years thereafter.

“These are the things we are seeing more of and it’s not the exception, it is the direction we’re going,” Rios said.

Council members and board members agreed their meeting of the minds was enlightening for all and that they should meet at least annually in the future.

“I am thankful for this meeting,” Whalen said. “It’s always good to know we have a really strong partner in the [Clovis Veterans] Memorial District and we can’t thank you enough for all you do for Clovis and its citizens.”