By: Katharine Wilson 

The city’s North College Park neighborhood is closer to gaining its own community center with the launch of a feasibility study that started in March. North College Park residents have been pushing for the center for many years. Mary Cook, president of the North College Park Citizens Association, said that the issue first came up in a meeting about eight years ago. 

“We wanted something more local, something, a place where people could gather,” Cook said. 

The existing College Park Community Center-Youth Sports Complex is across town from the neighborhood, near Paint Branch Elementary. The center offers a gym, a dance room and meeting spaces; it also has a soccer field. 

The city will likely pay for a portion of the new facility, while the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission (M-NCPPC) would foot most of the bill. 

Councilmembers have not decided how much the city will earmark for the project, but they have discussed allocating 10% of the total cost. The council has been reluctant to pinpoint a precise percentage until they have a final cost estimate in hand. At their March 8 meeting, councilmembers approved a letter to M-NCPPC confirming the city’s support of the center and interest in allocating funds for the project. 

The city and M-NCPPC collaborated on a similar project to create the College Park Youth and Family Services building.

“A partnership will help expedite the construction. This will also help the city to have its stake in the way the services will be provided in the center once it’s built,” said Councilmember Fazul Kabir (District 1). 

With a six-month window to conduct a feasibility study, a team led by WXY Studio will work to identify North College Park residents’ priorities for the new center. WXY Studio is a planning, urban design and architecture firm based in New York City. The team will also determine the type of facility that best addresses those priorities.

During the March 1 worksession, County Councilmember Tom Dernoga (District 1) and his team gave a presentation detailing the feasibility study to the city council. They outlined the work that the team has been tasked to complete by late August, including a needs analysis test. This test will determine what needs residents have that are not currently met by local community centers and recreation areas. 

Claire Worshtil, lead strategic park planner for M-NCPPC, said during the worksession that the team would take into consideration the planned multigenerational center that will be located near the Mall at Prince Georges. “We want to make sure that we are complementing services, not duplicating them,” said Worshtil. 

The team will look into existing surveys, including a needs survey done by the city and a second conducted by M-NCPPC. To build on information in these surveys, the team will conduct a separate needs analysis and host two virtual public meetings to gain public input. 

Once the community’s specific needs are determined, the team will then decide where the center should be located; under terms of their contract, the team can propose up to two possible sites. A preliminary analysis identified six potential sites; of these six, two are owned by the Prince George’s County Board of Education and one by the Al-Huda School. (The remaining three are privately owned.) During the city council’s worksession presentation, Worshtil made it clear that the county would like the center to be accessible by public transportation and not have a large environmental impact.  

“A place where people can walk to, basically, that’s centrally located,” said Cook. 

Finally, the team will develop a design concept and determine the estimated cost of the proposed center. County regulations mandate that the center must be at least 12,000 square feet; the team will determine how much larger than that their proposed center would be. 

Specifics about the center will be determined, in part, by the feasibility study. At their worksession, several councilmembers recommended designating a room for the Meals on Wheels College Park organization. A number of councilmembers also suggested designating space  for a computer room and library resources center. 

Several councilmembers wanted more specific information about the amenities the center will offer, but the M-NCPPC representatives assured the council that their concerns would be addressed by the feasibility study.