Residents support purchase of self-storage facility
by Mike Meno | Staff Writer
Montgomery College officials have unveiled three design ideas for expansion of the Takoma Park⁄Silver Spring campus, one of which includes plans to acquire a public storage facility on Fenton Street that sits in the midst of the college property.
Neighboring residents, who have for years argued in favor of obtaining the storage site, said they were pleased with the idea but dismayed by the other two designs that propose significant renovations to the buildings comprising the main part of the campus around Fenton Street and New York Avenue.
College officials say they want to work with the community in addressing their concerns but stress that major development is unavoidable.
‘‘This college has to grow,” said David Capp, chief facilities officer for the college.
Based on projections for increased enrollment, aging infrastructure and space deficits over the next 10 years, college officials say they need to build a new science and math center, a new student resource center and library, and a new child care center. It also potentially needs to renovate Falcon Hall, the college’s gymnasium, and the Communication Arts Center in order to provide more space for humanities classes.
A new math and science building would be about 114,000 square feet, and a new student center and library about 80,000 square feet, according to officials.
The college is already building a new parking garage on the west side of campus for the recently opened Cafritz Foundation Arts Center, and will soon begin work to renovate the Commons Building on Takoma Avenue into general purpose classrooms.
But the college has operated for years under a sometimes uneasy relationship with neighboring residents, some who live in houses adjacent to college buildings. Those residents have been opposed to major development on the main campus and are concerned about the effects on their neighborhood of historic homes.
At a community meeting June 24, college officials said they intend to build within the established ‘‘footprint” of many of the structures that need renovation, but they could not guarantee what will come out of the design and construction process.
‘‘We can’t be here today and say it will be exactly that footprint,” Capp said. ‘‘That’s a goal, but I can’t promise it 10 years from now.”
Several residents who attended the meeting became visibly angry when shown how some of the designs called for constructing new buildings on the main campus along New York Avenue.
‘‘The expansion is so much more than we anticipated,” said Lorraine Pearsall, who also serves as vice president of the local preservation group Historic Takoma.
One bright spot for the residents came in the third design presented, which included the proposed acquisition of the Extra Space storage facility at 7722 Fenton St. for use as the student resource center and library. Capp cautioned residents, however, that purchasing the property from its owner would require significant political lobbying in order to raise necessary funds. The college competes annually with other public institutions for $80 million in statewide bonds. The Takoma Park⁄Silver Spring campus is one of three in the community college network, and the other two, in Rockville and Germantown, are undergoing costly expansion and renovation plans as well.
‘‘That acquisition of the storage facility is our preference,” said Brad Stewart, the college’s vice president and provost. ‘‘We want that to happen. The odds are not in our favor.”
Officials from Extra Space did not return requests for comment for this story.
Frances Phipps, who serves as interim chairwoman for a Takoma Park advisory group that earlier this year released its own recommendations for campus growth, said most residents were thrilled to see the storage facility being considered but understood the difficulty the college will face in acquiring it.
The college is asking residents to offer feedback on the designs as it draws up a 10-year master plan. College officials will brief the Takoma Park City Council about their plans July 14, and the council will form its position on those plans during a July 28 work session. The North Takoma Citizens Association will meet to discuss the different options 7:30 p.m. Tuesday in room 302 of the Charlene R. Nunley Student Services Center.
‘‘We are moving ahead,” Stewart said, ‘‘but we are nowhere near any kind of conclusion.”
To learn more about Montgomery College’s expansion plans for the Takoma Park⁄Silver Spring campus, go to www.montgomerycollege.edu⁄takomaparkexpansion or http:⁄⁄www.montgomerycollege.edu⁄Departments⁄facilitiesca⁄master.htm.