UPPER MARLBORO – District Heights thinks 80 years isn’t too old for a facelift. As the city celebrates its 80th anniversary, it will add two new buildings to its holdings after the county planning board signaled its approval for a 10,000-square-foot senior center and 7,000-square-foot youth services center at its July 21 meeting. Both will […]
UPPER MARLBORO – District Heights thinks 80 years isn’t too old for a facelift.
As the city celebrates its 80th anniversary, it will add two new buildings to its holdings after the county planning board signaled its approval for a 10,000-square-foot senior center and 7,000-square-foot youth services center at its July 21 meeting. Both will be built using green building standards.
“These look like wonderful projects for the city and for the county as well,” Planning Board Chair Elizabeth Hewlett said.
The senior center will be a two-story addition to the existing District Heights municipal center at 2000 Marbury Drive. The addition would give seniors new fitness rooms, computer rooms and multipurpose areas for use for activities like arts and crafts and wellness programs.
Planning department staff also recommended the inclusion of an outdoor seating area, a ramp to the existing outdoor track, a retaining wall separating the expansion from the athletic fields already on site, and the planting of additional shade trees.
“The applicant is also encouraged to use decorative perennials, shrubs and other plantings for landscaping around the existing building to enhance the appearance and create opportunities for gardening for the seniors. The seniors may like to do that,” said Project Manager Fatima Hasan.
City of District Heights Treasurer Daniel Baden said the decision to construct the $2.5 million center came as a result of the heavy use the current facilities get by senior groups.
“We have a large senior citizen population in District Heights and the surrounding area that actually meets in our gymnasium once a week. They probably get up to about 200 people. They expressed the need to having a facility that has more activities and things that they could do,” he said.
Commissioner Dorothy Bailey praised the city for its efforts on behalf of seniors.
“The District Heights efforts in providing all kinds of wonderful opportunities for seniors is really known all over the county and all over the state. We definitely need to look at space, too, so that you’re getting more and more seniors coming. So I commend you,” she said.
However, the new addition would displace two 10-foot by 40-foot modular buildings that currently house the city’s youth services bureau, so Baden said the city wanted to move forward with providing more, better space for that agency as well.
“We service about 300 families annually from the current facility, and we’re pretty maxed out with the space,” he said. “This gave us an opportunity to utilize some land that we had within the community to build a larger facility for them.”
The new $1.5 million building would be three stories and 7,000 or more square feet, located on six plots the city owns at 6421-6431 Atwood Street in the Valleybrooke Townes townhome subdivision. It would include more office space for staff as well as counseling rooms, meeting rooms, computers, an interactive gaming area and a multipurpose room.
“This is a really comprehensive youth center,” Hasan said.
Catherine Williamson, treasurer for the homeowners’ association of Valleybrooke Townes, said that the community has overcome its initial hesitation about the plan.
“As time went on, everyone is on board,” she said.
Many younger families are moving to the area, she said, showing the need for such a facility.
“It’s going to enhance the services for youth and families. That will be a great help,” Williamson said.
Hasan said the staff recommended more lighting and native trees, an external trash facility, additional sidewalks, and signs to indicate private parking for the neighborhood be added to the plan. Youth services center guests will have a parking lot for their use.
“This facility will not take any parking spaces that are currently being used by the residents of the subdivision. This parking lot was built for the townhomes that were supposed to be built but never were built,” Hasan said.
Baden said that seniors- as well as other community stakeholders- helped to plan what the new senior and youth centers would look like through a series of committee meetings over six months.
“They’re very excited. We’ve had the community involved from the beginning. We basically built into the project what they want, and the projects actually grew from a smaller size than we were anticipating to a larger size building,” he said.
Baden said the construction costs will be paid through bond bills already approved by the General Assembly, city-issued bonds, and- for the senior center – a $800,000 grant from the Maryland Department of Aging.
Work on the youth services center is planned to start in September, with construction of the senior center a few months later in November.
“The city is really excited about the opportunities these two projects will bring,” Baden said.