Feb. 15--STOCKTON -- Transit officials are considering bankrolling a downtown day care center, something they say could be a boon for bus passengers and employees alike while helping fuel the revitalization of the city core.
At a public workshop on Friday, the San Joaquin Regional Transit District Board of Directors seemed interested in lending $200,000 to downtown developers to build the project and be able to offer a discounted rates to employees using the day care center.
"We're kind of lending money to provide an employee benefit, but we're getting paid back," Chairman Michael Restuccia said.
At the workshop, transit officials heard the pitch from the Cort Group to become a partner in its bid to open "The Campus" center in a historic building right across Sutter Street from the Downtown Transit Center, the city's bus hub and home to RTD's administrative offices. It is also close to downtown government buildings filled during the day with workers who could be potential customers. It would be marketed with the slogan "powered by RTD."
But it is about more than just day care, said Zac Cort, who delivered the pitch with his wife Megan Cort. Public-private partnerships are vital to building a vibrant downtown, he said. "We thought a natural fit would be our neighbor." Along with adding residential and retail to the city center -- day care is one of the elements downtown needs to grow, he said.
Megan Cort described a center that was more than just a place to park children, saying it would have enrichment programs such as music, martial arts and a community garden. "It's going to be a true urban playground," she said. "This is going to be a top-notch day care center for a vary affordable price."
And it could grow, taking children of different ages and opening on evenings and weekends, giving parents an option if they wanted to come downtown for entertainment, she said. "Who knows where this can go?"
But right now, the plan is to have space for 57 children in day care as soon as August. It would cost $275 a week, but the discounted rate for RTD employees would be $200. RTD would be able to offer up to 15 discounted slots.
Employees, including those who work for a contractor providing some of RTD services, were surveyed. During the Friday discussion, directors said 12 people had responded that they were interested. But there was concern of how many employees would actually sign on. Director Duane Isetti said he would like to see more fact finding.
It is not a need workers are clamoring for, at least not those in Amalgamated Transit Union Local 276, chapter president Alan Wagner said. "A few have little ones, but not that many."
Transit officials said that the deal for employees wouldn't be limited to their children, and the surveys included non-represented RTD employees and the driver and maintenance workers employed by MV Transportation, the contractor.
This is not the first time RTD has thought about adding a child care option for its commuters, Director Gary Giovanetti said, saying the downtown could be the place for it to happen. "It's a perfect marriage for this location."
Director Balwinder Singh Tarlok said he thought The Campus would be a great addition to the downtown and RTD but questioned if other agencies with expertise in revitalization might be a better fit as a partner. "RTD is in the business of providing transit."
The Cort Group's original pitch was for RTD to take on more of an ownership role, which would mean sharing in any profits to come. But directors steered discussion toward making a loan. It would be less risky and still could make money for the district.
It's an investment that would also bring a tangible benefit, said Donna DeMartino, general manager and CEO of RTD.
"We think it makes sense for our employees and our commuters."
Contact reporter Zachary K. Johnson at (209) 546-8258 or email@example.com. Follow him at www.recordnet.com/johnsonblog and on Twitter @zacharykjohnson.
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