Three years ago, the Silver Spring Library closed its doors for the last time. But three years from now, the building located on Colesville Road will once again welcome area residents when it reopens as a bilingual, multicultural child care center.
County officials selected the Martha Gudelsky Child Development Center as the former library building’s new tenant, and gave permission to add a two-story wing which will house a preschool serving about 150 children.
But construction on the new preschool wing will have to wait until a lease to the Friends of the Wheaton Library – which moved its’ used book store there while its own new library is under construction – expires in the summer of 2019.
While the County’s decision to award the building for use as a child care facility looked to have scuttled a proposal by Victory Housing to build senior housing on the 2.3-acre lot, Victory may yet build its development on a different site the County has offered.
Details are being worked out to include 110 housing units for seniors in a transit-accessible area in the proposed White Oaks life sciences project, next to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Some of the units will be sold at market rate, but most will be priced to be affordable to seniors.
“I am very pleased that we have reached an arrangement that can boost both child care and senior housing,” said County Executive Ike Leggett. “County families need more child care choices and our growing senior population deserves more options.”
The child care center is expected to be opened by the end of 2020, and Victory Housing’s senior housing should open the following year.
Victory Housing has 31 properties throughout the area, all of which are affordable housing developments. It is an independent nonprofit that is affiliated with the Archdiocese of Washington.
The plan is to use the former library structure, but to first renovate it, said Myrna Peralta, CEO of CentroNia, the company that will run the child care facility. It currently has other preschools in Washington, D.C. and one on University Boulevard and New Hampshire Avenue in Takoma Park.
The Takoma Park facility has an 800 person waiting list, Peralta said. About 80 percent of the families attending the Takoma Park school are low income, and Peralta said she expected that to be the same in the new location.
“The demand is so huge” for affordable day care, she said. “We are going to look at every opportunity, as they become available” to build more schools.
The proposed school is expected to employ 50 full and part-time workers.
The County will enter into a long-term ground lease with the Gudelsky Family Foundation. That foundation will cover development costs for the project, and CentroNia employees will apply for state and federal funds to cover the cost of building its new school.
CentroNia bills itself as a bilingual school but offers classes in several languages, depending on the school’s location. It also helps certify people for child care work who can speak Amharic to cater to the growing Ethiopian population, she said.
The abutting dog park and playground are expected to remain.
Since the October 2017 public hearing on the two proposals, the County has received numerous comments and one petition favoring the child care proposal signed by 25 people.
Most of those sending in comments chose child care over senior housing on the site.
“More children. More grass. Not more apartments,” wrote LuAnn M.
Victory Housing’s proposed building “looks like a huge fortress,” complained Beverly M.
“The building is much too high and will eat up too much green space,” wrote Karen W.
Montgomery Preservation Inc., a countywide nonprofit preservation advocacy organization, also favored the CentroNia plan.
“It is a flagship structure, constructed early in the then-new Montgomery County Library System when other towns operated facilities out of smaller makeshift buildings,” the organization wrote in a letter to the County, adding it was pleased the current structure will remain.