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MailTribune.com
  • Kids Unlimited school plan back before council

  • Plans for a school for underprivileged children are moving forward despite a recent setback when the city of Medford required a traffic study for the project next to Kids Unlimited.
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  • Plans for a school for underprivileged children are moving forward despite a recent setback when the city of Medford required a traffic study for the project next to Kids Unlimited.
    "At this point, it is too important for us to let it go," said Tom Cole, executive director of Kids Unlimited.
    The City Council at noon on Thursday will consider the second reading of a resolution affirming the Public Works director's decision to require a traffic impact analysis.
    Kids Unlimited, the Family Nurturing Center and OnTrack Inc. have joined forces to build a 3,600-square-foot center at 533 Austin St., to provide early education programs for underprivileged children.
    The center would be adjacent to Kids Unlimited.
    Rather than dispute the need for a traffic study, Cole said it is more important to expedite the process and get the project under way.
    "It's hard to create a solid plan for the building and demolition until we get through that hurdle," he said.
    Costs for the traffic study range from $5,000 to $25,000. Cole said he's received offers of help from local traffic engineers that might bring the cost down.
    The project would require a zoning change from residential to commercial for the property, which is adjacent to the parking lot of Kids Unlimited on Riverside Drive.
    The Medford Public Works Department has determined the project could generate up to 622 daily vehicle trips, far above the threshold of 250 that triggered the need for a traffic study. That part of the city code was strengthened after Walmart avoided a traffic study for its south Medford superstore.
    The three organizations involved in the school have attempted to show that the project would have minimal impacts on traffic.
    All of the organizations have buses that transport children and parents, which would minimize the number of vehicle trips, officials said. Also, many of the families live within walking distance of Kids Unlimited.
    In April 2012, Kids Unlimited secured a community-development grant for $133,000 from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development through the city of Medford to purchase the Austin Street building.
    The "Project Hope" property was in foreclosure and ultimately was donated by Bank of America, freeing up the federal funds for construction of the educational center.
    Cole estimates that the entire project could cost up to $500,000, and the organization would rely on additional donations and community support.
    Cole said the goal of the early childhood school is to address poverty from a different perspective than other programs.
    The idea is to provide educational opportunities to disadvantaged youths at a very early age so they don't fall behind compared to other students.
    The children would receive individualized tutoring and counseling to help them overcome the cycle of poverty, he said.
    Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476 or dmann@mailtribune.com.
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