College Park City Council discusses proposed North College Park Community Center

College Park City Council reviewed plans for a new community center in the northern part of town during a business session on Tuesday evening, the latest stage in a project that has been under discussion for years.

County officials spoke to council about how plans for the potential new community center in North College Park could come to fruition.

Dozens of North College Park residents asked for their own recreation area during a virtual meeting in October 2020. In a 2020 city-sponsored study, residents asked about listed trails and trails, open spaces or natural, fitness/wellness programs and a multipurpose indoor facility or community center as their top four desires for the city.

Details on project cost, location and uses of the facility are still pending until the county conducts a community needs analysis, holds public meetings, selects candidate sites, proposes designs and finally estimates the costs.

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The Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission, M-NCPPC, an agency specializing in parks and recreation in Montgomery and Prince George counties, is leading the project.

Board members discussed the possibility of funding part of the project – some accepted a proposal to contribute 10% of the total cost.

District 1 Council Member Fazlul Kabir stressed the importance of engagement with residents in determining what they hope to gain from the design of the community center.

“The way people are excited is because the whole family can have a good time together in the center,” Kabir said. “I think I’m going to support around this [10 percent] figure.”

A 2020 city study assessment found that existing facilities, such as the existing community center in the Lakeland neighborhood of College Park, are not being used to full capacity. This could be attributed to “insufficient communication and promotion of programs and services,” according to the study.

The uses for the new M-NCPPC Community Center, which would be located in a different part of town than the Lakeland Community Center, have not been clearly defined. Some council members stepped in on Tuesday to consider how the facility could improve recreation in the city.

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District 1 council member Kate Kennedy suggested using the new space as a home for Meals on Wheels food service.

Since College Park does not have its own library, Mayor Patrick Wojahn suggested that the community center could have some of the amenities typically found in a library, such as computers.

“Libraries aren’t just books anymore, as we all know,” Wojahn said. He also recommended that the location of the center be accessible by public transport.

Stakeholders said the community center could be used for residents’ small businesses, doing art and food, welfare and social services in reference to the study.

The board will continue discussions about the community center at an upcoming meeting, Wojahn said.

Jill E. Washington