After eight years of uncertainty, the future looks certain for the new child care center at Rengstorff Park, which broke ground Monday.
As recently as last June, City Council members came close to killing the project when asked to approve $1.8 million in cost overruns. Before that, child care providers made the case that there was no need for the center, council members said it wouldn't serve enough of the nearby low income neighborhood, neighbors opposed its taking up space at Rengstorff (at a meeting in 2005, residents carried placards with the words "Save Rengstorff Park"), and at one point the city considered finding another site.
But ultimately a crowd of 50 people gathered at the site Monday to celebrate the end of debate and a brighter future, they hope, for Mountain View children. City officials and other project leaders broke ground with six ribbon-clad shovels.
"Hopefully other cities will take our lead on this," said mayor Laura Macias, noting that it's an unusual project for a city government to take on.
Council member Margaret Abe-Koga could barely contain her excitement.
"I was just absolutely thrilled," she said, "after so many years and so many obstacles. Obviously it's a project that's near and dear to my heart. It will affect the lives of children and families for many decades to come."
The project comes with a $5.4 million price tag, with $2.8 million of that paid for by the Packard Foundation. A lease with the operator, Children's Creative Learning Center (CCLC), is expected to bring the city $202,000 a year in revenue.
"I inherited this project from my predecessor who inherited it from his," said a Packard Foundation representative at the groundbreaking.
Project leaders say construction will be quick, with the center opening this September. Thirty percent of its 104 spots are dedicated to "low income" families -- although the criteria for what is low income will be decided by the council sometime this month.
The 9,400-square-foot center will provide care for children between infancy and 5 years old on a first-come, first-served basis. Officials say that could double the number of low income children receiving subsidized child care in the city -- which was only 27 in 2006.
Abe-Koga said CCLC is providing $50,000 to subsidize low income families, while others could be subsidized through the welfare-to-work voucher program, something low income families can sometimes qualify for but few child care centers accept.
"There are families who qualify for the vouchers but need a place to use them," she said.
There's already a lot of interest from parents, Abe-Koga says, and she believes the spaces will fill up fast.
Macias said the center will complement the recently opened Senior Center at 266 Escuela Ave. The two centers are adjacent and will share a parking lot. The new facility is expected to use 15 of the busy lot's 195 parking spaces.