“… If You Build It, They Will Come …”
By Marcie Polier Swartz
Founder Village for Vets
The VA held an information day at the Bob Hope Patriotic Hall on Tuesday July 10, 2018 for developers hoping to be the winner of the 75 year contract to rebuild the VAGLA Campus. Somehow having the detailed discussion in that gorgeous reverential hall was a symbol. Build something beautiful and lasting; yes it will be difficult but it will fill the hearts of Veterans and civilians alike healing years of past neglect.
The various VA experts, led by Meghan Flanz, Executive Director, VAGLAHS Master Plan, were prepared, succinct and knowledgeable. Some highlights…
The environmental studies are comprehensive and ongoing. They will be finished on time.
To qualify, the winning developer must be prepared to include:
-Ready to go plans to remodel Building 207 and to break ground there by February 2019
-To create a community and to make it cash flow
-The VA will make minor construction contributions – however this is primarily a Principal Developer (PD) project that they must finance and operate. This is an at risk investment for developers.
– PD will partner with city and county programs to determine how best to make the community sustainable in the long term.
-The PD can use service leases to bring in coffee shops, day care and retail components that are principally Veteran focused to create a community.
-VA will decide by the end of September who will qualify to compete for the final award.
The Master Plan is a Conceptual Framework. The image that has been circulated since January 2016 is a concept and not meant to be the literal final draft plan. With approximately 300 units of housing on campus, the PD will build 900 additional units. The proposing PDs will likely suggest times lines to phase in units and to create neighborhoods, and will propose financially sustainable models.
VA has been working hard on this and is looking for a real partnership with the PD. The PD will be looked to as “the umbrella for the entire development” said Ed Bradley, “in order to hold together all threads which will be woven together into a neighborhood and community and to establish an ongoing and long lasting community.” Meghan Flanz reminded those in attendance that the housing and the communities must serve an aging population. One of the evaluation points will be how well the PDs express their commitment to Veterans and how Veterans will be included in the process.
Heidi Marston reminded the audience that the housing is “primarily for the ‘at risk’ Veteran population that needs close proximity to the VA Hospital.” Further, 60% of the homeless Veteran population is between the ages of 42-64 years of age and will need supportive housing at some point. This Veteran population also includes Veterans who are at risk of losing housing they have already qualified for. “Housing should be geared to the most chronically needy, most vulnerable Veterans” said Marston. Proactively, Meghan Flanz emphasized job training in sales and hospitality, and not simply housing that will need to be included in the plans. Meghan reminded the group, “…all land uses in the proposed community will be evaluated in accordance with the law that governs the use of the land as “principally benefitting Veterans and their families”.
After this serious meeting about the details and nitty gritty involved in this ‘barn raising’ we are all hoping for, I left with the feeling that “ we’re all Veterans now…” It’s a kinship. We can all relate. This plan will not house every homeless Veteran, but it will finally honor the land grant of 1887 and the sacrifices of our military. It will bring glory to Los Angeles.
I leave you with one question…how will you help?
Go to https://villageforvets.org/donate.html to donate, volunteer or sign up for our newsletter.