UT Child Development Center gets approval for building to replace San Jacinto Center inside School of Social Work

Lauren Grobe

The University Budget Council approved an $8 million proposal to relocate and expand one of the Child Development Center’s locations last month. 

Center program director Hara Cootes said the new location will replace the San Jacinto Center, which is housed inside the School of Social Work, and will be located on Manor St. near the Comal location.. Cootes said the design process will begin in January, and the new location should be completed in summer 2021. 

“(When relocating), being innovative is really what it’s all about,” Cootes said. “What are the latest trends, what do we know about what’s best for children and how can we incorporate that in what we’re doing?”

The new center will increase spaces for children by adding 30 spots, increasing the capacity to 195 children, Cootes said. She said the 30 spaces will accommodate children under 2 years old.

Mike Carmagnola, director of Project Management and Construction Services, helped prepare the proposal and said the center would be similar to the Comal location. He said the new center will help address issues with space and accessibility. 

“I worked with the (Child Development Center) folks and tried to understand what their needs were and tried to identify good options to meet those needs,” Carmagnola said. “We homed in on this as an option.”

Veronica Trevino, media manager for Financial and Administrative Services, said children will relocate to the new building a few months after its completion.

The program needed a new center because the School of Social Work is an academic building and not suitable for childcare, Cootes said.

“We are currently in a building that was built in the ‘30s,” Cootes said. “An aging building presents obstacles for us to remain.”

Spaces for infants are in the highest demand, and the expansion will help provide more spaces for families on their waitlist, Cootes said.  

“We are able to (expand) with those younger age groups where there is the most need,” Cootes said.

Cootes said the Child Development Center also plans to add 80 spaces to their Lavaca location, which is shared between the University community and the state Capitol. She said the Texas Facilities Commission is building the Lavaca expansion while the University is heading the San Jacinto relocation and expansion.

The Red River realignment project on Red River Street affected the safety of parent drop-off at the San Jacinto location, Cootes said. Carmagnola said access to that center and the new center on Congress would be safer for children.

“There will be a change in the way the families drop off the students,” Carmagnola said. “There will be full access. It’ll just be in a different place.”

Cootes said she plans to work with the Office of Sustainability and the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center to implement outdoor learning spaces for the children, such as a butterfly garden.

Editor's Note: A previous version of this article incorrectly reported where the new location will be and how many spots will be added to the Lavaca location. The Texan regrets this error.