by Wesley Ratko

Representatives from Children of America, the new daycare center now setting up shop in the old Borders building at Germantown Avenue and Bethlehem Pike, appeared before the Development Review Committee Tuesday night, Feb. 21, to introduce themselves and talk about their business.  The meeting was informational only because the  day care center is allowed by right under the city’s current zoning and is not seeking approval for a variance

Project manager Brad Parks answered questions from the committee on topics ranging from traffic and parking to building aesthetics and paint color, all in an informal setting.  Parks told the committee he was curious to get input on these and other issues.

Parks said he was very impressed with neighborhood.

“It’s just a beautiful little town, I love it,” said Parks.  He received a packet from Community Manager Celeste Hardester with the Germantown Avenue design guidelines.

Parks told the committee that there is a 14-week schedule to complete the work on the building, plus an additional 30 to 60 days past that for additional prep work.  He said the business should be open in mid-June.

The building offers 16,000 square feet of space and will be, according to Parks, the largest facility of the company’s 47 schools.  This will be their 9th Pennsylvania location.

The sign on the building will be linear, similar to what Borders did.  According to Parks it will run between the trim above the first floor windows, just below the second story dormers.  He said the sign would be turquoise and have their logo.

“It may not be what you’re looking for, but we’re definitely willing to consider all of your ideas,” he said.

Responding to concerns about where parents will pick up and drop off their children, Parks told the committee that children won’t simply be dropped off in the front of the building.  Instead, parents will walk in with their children and sign in with a swipe card.  Each drop off will take between 4 to 5 minutes.

“Everything is monitored as security is, obviously, very important to us,” Parks said.

He said the company has performed traffic studies that will be delivered to Hardester for consideration by the Traffic, Transportation, and Parking committee.

There are 19 spaces in the parking lot on the side of the building, two of which will often be occupied by buses.  Parks said he hopes most employees will use transit to get to work.  Parks expressed interest in offering a commuter benefit to employees that would allow pre-tax dollars to be used to pay for transit.

Unlike other locations, the playground for this facility will be located in the basement and not outside the building.  When the renovations are complete the basement will feature ten-foot high ceilings and padded walls.  The equipment will be specialized, similar to the kinds of ball pits seen at McDonald’s restaurants.

Aesthetics committee representative Carolyn Simmons expressed concern that glare from the interior fluorescent lighting would reflect out onto the street.  Parks said he plans to install a tempered inlay for the windows that will be tinted.  Parks told her the tint would prevent a lot of light from being visible on the street.  Parks said he has no plans to install any awnings on the exterior of the building.

Also on-hand were Dr. Vicki Folds, Vice President of Education and Professional Development, and Kylee Kline, business manager for the Northeast Region.  Dr. Folds writes the curriculum for all of Children of America’s schools.  Both she and Mr. Parks are headquartered in Florida.

Representing the business association, Rob Remus asked about how the school would market to the area.  Kline said that they would focus on a 5-mile radius around the school to target direct mailings and newspaper ads.  She said in her experience with other suburban locations, 75-80% of the student will come from this radius.

At full capacity, this school can handle  226 students.  This would require a full staff of 28.

“We’re a long-term neighbor, we want to be a good neighbor,” said Parks.

According to its website, Children of America is a Florida-based daycare and after-school care provider with 47 schools in 12 states.  Founded in 1999, their curriculums are “developed to accommodate key age ranges.”  The company is a subsidiary of World Wide Child Care Corp (WWCC).

The Development Review Committee suggested that Children of America also meet with the Traffic, Transportation, and Parking Committee, as well as a joint meeting of the Aesthetics and Historical Advisory Committees and they agreed.  Traffic, Transportation and Parking will meet Monday March 5th at 7:00pm in a location yet to be determined.