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Fair Board votes to move, preserve Memorial Gardens Building

July 08, 2013|By Bradley Zint
  • The Memorial Gardens Building at the OC Fairgrounds is slated to be demolished as part of the Pacific Amphitheater renovation work.
The Memorial Gardens Building at the OC Fairgrounds is… (Don Leach / Daily…)

In a victory for veterans and preservationists, a former World War II-era barracks at the Orange County Fairgrounds will not be demolished.

The Orange County Fair Board agreed Monday to have fairgrounds staff examine relocating the historic Memorial Gardens Building, first to a temporary site and then to a yet-to-be determined, permanent location on the 150-acre fairgrounds.

"This is just a tremendous and exciting effort," said Fair Board member Nick Berardino, a Vietnam veteran who made the initial motion to relocate the building. "I'm proud to be leading it, and I'm very proud of the rest of the board that has been unanimously in support of doing this. This is going to be quite a project."

Berardino said he hoped the building would house or somehow be a part of a proposed war museum on the fairgrounds. Such a museum could honor veterans and pay additional tribute to the area's former identity as the Santa Ana Army Air Base, he said.

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"I'm gonna live up to being a former Marine," Berardino said. "I'm going to live up to our mascot, which is a bulldog. I'm gonna be a bulldog in making sure this project gets done."

The structure, built around 1942, was slated to be torn down — with its historical pieces salvaged — after the fair ended to make way for a new entrance plaza for the Pacific Amphitheatre.

Interim fairgrounds Chief Executive Doug Lofstrom gave a preliminary estimate of $55,000 to $60,000 to move the building, though he anticipated other costs adding to that number.

The Fair Board may meet in August to hire a contractor for the job.

The board's motion — members Joyce Tucker and Ali Jahangiri were absent, but the other seven board members voted in favor — also directs that an analysis of the project be done under the California Environmental Quality Act, or CEQA.

Since 1970, the site around the Memorial Gardens Building has been a California Point of Historical Interest, a designation that can require CEQA review before any projects are done there. The state designation, however, would not fully protect the building from demolition.

Lofstrom said a "cursory review," without a historian's help, of the 4,800-square-foot building was recently done. Fairgrounds staff said the two-story structure's siding, flooring, chimney and eaves appear to be original.

The fairgrounds property was once part of the nearly 1,300-acre Army base, which served as training grounds from 1942 to 1946.

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