By Alicia Cherem
The City of College Park is planning on converting a former historic school building on Calvert Road into a daycare facility center in partnership with the University of Maryland.
The renovation will cost around $6 million, with the City of College Park only investing about $800,000. The project will be finished in about two years, according to Councilman P.J. Brennan.
Brennan said that the project is a “great investment” because the university is willing to invest and contribute the total $6 million with a minimum tax increase, assuming the city releases the property.
The facility will have 120 seats available for children under the age of 5, and priority will be given to those whose parents or guardians are employees of the university or are residents of College Park. Brennan describes the facility as a “huge demand” and an opportunity to “truly serve and activate the community, by restoring a historic building that has been crumbling for 10 years.”
A public forum was held Tuesday where council members reviewed the proposed terms and allowed commentary and questions from residents. But although there has been significant support for the renovation from most council members and residents present, there was pushback and criticism from two residents and one council member.
Councilwoman Mary C. Cook was the only council member who opposed the motion to move forward with negotiations with the university, citing a lack of a “comprehensive or strategic plan from the city, that will look at the bigger picture.”
“I’m not opposed to having a daycare but I’m not sure if we should be making this decision right now,” Cook said.
Similarly, Oscar Gregory, who spoke at the forum said that “the infrastructure in College Park is completely dead and instead of the city taking care of its residents, it turns into doing whatever the university wants, and it stops being a sort partnership.”
Gregory suggested that the day care should be housed in President Loh’s front lawn. He said that this plan is not a “partnership,” but merely “quid pro quo.”
Catherine Peretti, who has a 2-year-old son and a 3-year-old daughter and only lives a few blocks from the site, supports the renovation and said that having an abandoned building in her community is not beneficial for any resident.
“The project is a really great option because it fulfills a real need for the community and is a win-win for the university and the City of College Park,” Peretti said.
An additional forum is scheduled to take place March 28 and will be open to questions and comments from residents.