BERLIN – Town officials again voiced their support of the activity center proposed by a local businesswoman as she seeks funding help from the state.
The Berlin Town Council unanimously passed a resolution in support of Carmella Solito’s plan to build a youth activity center — to feature daycare and gymnastics, among other things — on Old Ocean City Boulevard.
Now that she has the support of local government, Solito is expected to receive a loan from the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) to enable the Berlin Activities Depot to become reality.
“It’s a loan from the state so they need to make sure local government is in support of this,” said Ivy Wells, the town’s economic and community development director.
Solito, who runs Twisters Gymnastics on Route 113 in Berlin, has been working on building a larger facility on Old Ocean City Boulevard for several years. Though groundwork on the new site began early this year, it stopped soon after it started.
“The project got started and then we hit some roadblocks,” Solito said. “We need more money to finish.”
She contacted Berlin Planning Director Dave Engelhart for help. He put her in touch with Wells, who set up several meetings between Solito and state officials.
“Ultimately, it resulted in Carmella receiving a loan from the Department of Housing and Community Development that’s going to make her dream come true,” Wells said.
Solito first presented plans to build a 33,000-square-foot activity center to town officials in 2011. She has said it would include pre-school, gymnastics, laser tag, golf and fitness space. She says it will be a true activity center with space for recreational gymnastics as well as things like soccer and trampolines. She will also continue to offer childcare in the new facility.
“We’re already successful,” Solito said. “We just need more space.”
She currently serves more than 250 children between her daycare and gymnastics programs. With the new facility, she expects to serve between 500 and 600 kids. Her roster of 32 employees would more than double.
“It will bring more jobs to the community,” she said. “It’s going to be a great facility for the town. There’ll be something for everyone.”
Solito said she could not say the amount of the loan and was not sure when work would again begin at the Old Ocean City Boulevard site, which was most recently used as a parking lot for the former Tyson poultry processing plant across the street.
“The builder didn’t do what he said he would do,” she said. “There are some processes we need to go through.”
Solito did say that once work begins, construction is expected to take approximately 210 days.
Town officials said they were happy to reaffirm their interest in seeing the project come to fruition with Monday’s resolution.
“They [DHCD] want to make sure the community supports the whole concept, which we certainly do,” Mayor Gee Williams said.