Plans delayed for World War II memorial downtown

Posted Monday, Jun. 10, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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Uncertainty about the future of the downtown library is delaying ambitious plans by the Arlington Historical Society to build a memorial to honor local servicemen killed during World War II.

The memorial would include two granite monument structures — one inscribed with the names of the fallen veterans, a second one describing the role of the city and university in the war effort — was to be located near the existing statue of Medal of Honor recipient Col. Neel Kearby.

Arlington City Councilwoman Sheri Capehart, however, proposed that grant money that has already been approved for the project from the Historic Preservation Fund be earmarked and held until discussions concerning the future of the downtown is decided.

The city has been involved in a prolonged study of the library. Officials are still determining whether it would be more cost-effective to renovate, add a third floor or completely rebuild the 40-year-old building, which needs at least $7.5 million in repairs.

Capehart and other council members said that timing for the completion of the memorial project is not a pressing issue. During a work session, Councilwoman Lana Wolff defended the memorial project and said it was a good companion for the library's expansion of their WWII collection.

City Manager Trey Yelverton said he expects the council to discuss the memorial at its June 18 meeting, where he said they may provide direction to city officials on how to proceed but not take a formal vote.

But Geraldine Mills, executive director for the Arlington Historical Society, said after the council’s decision to delay the project that she hopes it can get back on track as soon as possible.

“The remaining relatives of the more than 40 men who died in the war are getting older, and we think it’s important that a memorial for their ancestors be completed while they are still around to see it,” Mills said.

The Kearby statue was an earlier project of the historical society completed in 2010. The proposed memorial would be located on the west lawn of the library.

It also would include additional landscaping and lighting features along with retaining walls and a flowerbed and a memorial flag.

Another element of the project is a documentary the historical society is working on with the film department at the University of Texas at Arlington about the World War II era in Arlington. It will portray the veterans’ backgrounds using interviews, photographs, maps and other artifacts.

A teaser for the film documentary has been released by UTA and can be viewed at: vimeo.com/utafilm/review/64160444/d523468823.

Volunteers have secured pledges from private donors for around $30,000 of the nearly $60,000 needed to complete the two monuments planned for the project, and a $16,400 grant application for money from the Arlington Preservation Fund was submitted earlier this year.

The city’s Landmark Preservation Commission reviewed the application at their April meeting voting to recommend the project for approval by the Arlington City Council.

The 63,000-square-foot steel-and-concrete downtown library is structurally sound, but it has a leaking roof; handicap accessibility issues; electrical, plumbing and elevator problems; and a shortage of public restrooms.

This report includes material from the Star-Telegram archives.

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