Veterans' project at Camp Anza to bring new life to historic officers' club building
Image credit: David Bauman, Staff Photographer/Press Enterprise
by Alicia Robinson
The Press Enterprise
May 26th, 2014
A 2011 news story about an injured veteran who had to choose between living at home with his family and getting the care he needed started Riverside officials brainstorming for what they could do to help the city’s veterans.
The solution they dreamed up is a development of 30 apartments for disabled veterans and their families, centered on a renovated World War II-era officers’ club where veterans will be able to get physical therapy or job training, meet with a case manager or relax and socialize.
Home Front at Camp Anza, as the $12.75 million project is called, is expected to be ready in early 2016. It’s the city’s first affordable housing development for veterans, officials said.
Residents and local officials got a preview of the project on Thursday during a tour of the site next to the Arlanza Library. It was the first time the public has been in the officers’ club in years, said Councilman Jim Perry, who hosted the event.
Frank Teurlay, a historian who grew up in the area and helped persuade the city to save the officers’ club, traveled from his home in Walnut for the tour.
The 1942 building served as a Loyal Order of Moose lodge for years, but once Teurlay learned its history, “My very first thought was, if this building had a purpose in World War II, I hope they don’t demolish it,” he said.
In fact, the club had several purposes. Its dining room fed hundreds of soldiers. Its dance floor could fit 250 couples. Entertainers such as Bob Hope, Lena Horne, Orson Welles and Lucille Ball visited the camp during its heyday.
Equipped with a railroad and sewage system, Camp Anza itself encompassed 1,200 acres and more than 400 buildings, including a barbershop, post office and chapel, said historic preservation consultant Jennifer Mermilliod.
As a training and staging area, the camp processed more than 623,000 troops in the roughly four years it operated.
During Thursday’s tour, visitors provided with flashlights – the officers’ club has no electricity – strolled through the ballroom with a high ceiling and peered into the dining wing. City employees and others working on the project described how the club served the camp and pointed out surviving details, such as redwood paneling that will be restored.
FUTURE FOR FAMILIES
A display board outside the club showed the 2.14-acre development’s future: a lap pool and playground, a handful of buildings with two- and three-bedroom apartments, and the officers’ club as a community center.
Wakeland Housing and Development Corp. is developing the project in collaboration with the city’s housing authority. The nonprofit Mercy House will help families at Home Front at Camp Anza receive services.
For Mercy House Executive Director Larry Haynes, the development will help ensure veterans’ children have the same opportunities as other kids.
Haynes said he expects Home Front at Camp Anza to be “a real landmark project when it’s done.”
And as someone who grew up in the Arlanza neighborhood, he said, “It’s such a cool thing to be a part of it.”
Soon the project won’t be Riverside’s only housing option specifically for veterans. Habitat for Humanity is planning a 12-unit development that will offer homeownership to low-income veterans, said Executive Director Kathy Michalak.
Habitat officials hope to break ground on that project by the end of the year.
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