To continue providing top-notch services, officials with the Monticello Area Community Action Agency say they must relocate their Head Start classes.
MACAA has applied for a special-use permit to construct a new school facility on property it owns at 1021 Park St. in Charlottesville.
Head Start, a federal preschool program for low-income families, is one of several programs offered by MACAA to help families in the city and Albemarle, Fluvanna, Louisa and Nelson counties. It is capped at 213 children a year.
MACAA has five Head Start locations across its service area, with 60 students in Charlottesville. That is the largest of any location, said Garrett Smith, president of MACAA’s board of directors.
Smith said the lower level of the existing building used to be rented out to Rock Hill Academy, but now sits vacant and is wasted space.
MACAA’s administrative offices and three Head Start classrooms are housed at 1025 Park St.
The 1025 Park St. building, constructed in 1959, also has issues with its roof and heating, ventilation and air-conditioning systems, according to MACAA.
MACAA wanted to demolish a portion of the building, but couldn’t afford it because it contained asbestos.
“Frankly, it’s a mess,” Smith said. “It’s not a good facility for us to deliver excellent services.”
The nonprofit purchased the building at 1021 Park St. for $882,500 in 2016.
In 2017, MACAA attempted to relocate to 1021 Park St. and sell its existing site to New Millennium Senior Living, which planned to create a four-story, 141-bedroom assisted living center.
The City Council, however, denied a rezoning request for the proposal, with members saying they thought the assisted living center would have detrimental impacts on the neighborhood.
Smith said the new proposal differs from the last one in that it does not propose a use for the existing building and that it situates the new facility slightly farther back on the property to preserve a tree line.
In 2017, officials with the nonprofit said the proposal at that time may have been vital to keeping the program afloat. Smith said MACAA is now on better footing.
“We feel that MACAA is in a good place and [the new school is] vital because we need to have an attractive, top-notch facility for our children,” he said.
New Millennium still has an agreement with MACAA to buy the property, but Smith said the site likely will be sold to a third party when the contract is finalized. Smith declined to discuss more specifics because the third party contract is still being negotiated.
“We do not anticipate Millennium will be the party who purchases the property,” he said. “We are absolutely sure that whoever is purchasing the property from us will be demolishing those buildings.”
The existing property is assessed at $3.2 million.
The special-use permit is required to allow an educational facility at the 1021 Park St. property, which currently is zoned residential.
The proposal includes about 30 parking spaces and a small playground.
The existing Stone House at 1021 Park St. would become home to the organization’s administrative offices. It is currently being leased to a family as a residence.
Sarah Hanks, MACAA’s executive director, said the Stone House also would be used to provide additional services for families, such as job referrals.
“We want to make sure our families have the best physical space,” she said.
Hanks said administrators are still working with Head Start teachers to determine exactly what they need in the new facility. The budget for the project has not been finalized.
The new school would be constructed behind the house and would not be visible from Park Street.
The Stone House, which sits at the corner of Park Street and Davis Avenue, was built in 1932.
The site plan shows proposed improvements to Park Street, including a left-turn lane onto MACAA Driveand a median on Park Street. Traffic leaving MACAA Drive would only be allowed to turn right onto Park.
Smith said neighbors have expressed concerns about the intersection of MACAA Drive and Davis Avenue. The two roads are not aligned, but that would be fixed by whoever purchases the existing property.
Smith said the proposal will go before the Planning Commission in October. MACAA hopes to be into the new facility by spring 2021.