Child care center breaks ground

Construction at Rengstorff Park finally begins, with opening scheduled for September

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.


Like this comment
Posted by Jon Wiener
a resident of another community
on Jan 10, 2008 at 9:38 am

I thought the Packard Foundation's contribution was a loan, with the lease payments being just enough to cover operating costs and pay the interest on it. Is that wrong?

Clearly, the Foundation is thrilled to be participating in any fashion: "I inherited this project from my predecessor who inherited it from his," sounds as enthusiastic as Matt Pear was in nominating Greg Perry for vice mayor a few years ago.

Like this comment
Posted by Ty Durekas
a resident of another community
on Jan 11, 2008 at 9:43 am

To the last person (Jon Weiner) - you are absolutely correct that the Packard Foundation did loan the money for the project and that our organization (CCLC) is making payments to equal and offset. We are not getting "free rent" and are paying a fair market rent along with serving low income families from the community in a very creative public private partnership, very exciting!

Like this comment
Posted by Rhonda Stamps
a resident of Shoreline West
on Jan 22, 2008 at 1:32 pm

I live on California St in an apt building that touches one side of the park. I am very interested in finding out where I can get information on how to sign up or let someone know I am interested in being considered for a spot with the child care for my infant.

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