A bright new daycare

David Taber

Jackson Sq.-Preliminary plans were unveiled at a June 12 community meeting to demolish the old Martha Eliot Health Center and build a new daycare center at Bromley Heath.

The plan would allow Associated Early Care and Education (AECE) to move out of the basement space it has been operating from for over 50 years and more than double its capacity. The infant and toddler daycare center now serves 86 children, but will be able to enroll over 200 if plans are approved.

Philip Lewis of HMFH Architects presented the proposed design for the building, which would face north on to Horan Way, maximizing open space on the south side of the property. Orienting buildings along a north-south axis maximizes the amount of natural light they get, Lewis said.

“Having activity spaces on the north and south sides brings a lot of light in…You really want the [outdoor] play areas to get a lot of the good southern sunlight,” he said.

Thanks to the natural incline of the property, which is on an 8-foot grade, it will be possible to house underground parking off Horan Way and have the first floor classrooms open out onto the play area in the back, Lewis said.

HMFH Architects primarily focuses on designing spaces to be used by young children, Lewis said.

Douglas Baird, CEO of AECE, said he has been trying to move the center out of the basement at 962 Parker St. for the last 20 years. “The basement is not really the best place for kids,” he said.

Now that he has the chance, Baird what wants is a daycare not only attractive to Bromley Heath residents, but a magnet for the surrounding community, in part because there is stiff competition for kids these days.

“There is enough space in Boston right now for all the kids right now who are eligible,” Baird said. “I want to build a site parents would just plain choose.”

And he is confident AECE can do it. “We have been here [in a basement for years] with no trouble getting filled up,” he said.

When the new center is completed and the new capacity realized, Baird said, AECE will be looking to Bromley Heath to meet its expanded staffing needs.

“As far as finding new staff, our view is they are already here,” he said.

He presumably meant at Bromley Heath and not at the meeting. Of the about 15 attendees, about a half dozen were community members, according to Kate Bennett of the Boston Housing Authority (BHA), who passed around a sign-in sheet at the meeting but was unable to locate it the next day. The balance was made up of representatives from the BHA, HMHF, AECE, and Paradigm Properties, which is coordinating the development project.

Sparse attendance was not a problem so early in the process, according to Joe Mulligan of Paradigm. The plans still have to be approved by licensing authorities in Boston as well as the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development, and there are still many steps to go in the community approval process as well.

“This project is just kind of poking its head out and looking around,” Mulligan said.

The hope is to begin the demolition of the old Martha Eliot Health Center in the fall or winter of 2008, he said.

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