CHESHIRE – A new daycare and early childhood education center was approved by the Planning and Zoning Commission to be built along Route 10, but the applicant will need to make modifications to the building’s design before final approval by the town.
Late last month, commissioners unanimously supported the application submitted by engineering firm J.R. Russo and Associates LLC for a new The Learning Experience Childcare Center at 435 Highland Ave.
Jay Ussery, principal and land surveyor with J.R. Russo, represented the applicant.
The property totals 1.25 acres, and is located directly to the west of Highland School. It was developed in 2012 by JAD Partners LLC, and mirrors the building directly to the north, which was also built by JAD.
“It’s a fairly easy site, I would say, to develop,” Ussery said during the July 25 meeting.
The interior space is 10,000 square feet, with a 5,000-square-foot outside play area at the rear of the building. The play area will not be visible from Route 10, according to Ussery.
In total, the center can accommodate 151 children, per state regulations.
“This is a franchise facility. They build all over the country,” Ussery explained. “This particular building actually houses, in most other states, about 180 children … The regulations here are a little more stringent than what they are in many other states.”
There will be 38 parking spaces available on site, two of which will be marked handicapped, Ussery added.
“It’s a pretty good-looking building,” he said. “It’s basically all HardiePlank or Hardie board. It’s grayish- brownish in color. There’s a little color on it, obviously for the young children — it kind of dresses it up a little bit.”
However, Commissioner Rob Brucato wasn’t supportive of the original design of the building, prompting the first change the developer will have to make prior to getting final approval from the town. Brucato urged the applicant to put gable ends on the roof to match other buildings throughout town.
“To me, that looks like a Chuck E. Cheese that belongs on Queen Street, not in a nice area of Cheshire,” Brucato said. “Most people I know in this town don’t like this type of building coming in. I’d like to keep the beautification of Cheshire going.”
Commissioner Sean Strollo agreed with Brucato, stating that the original rendering of the building had too many colored blocks in the entryway of the building.
“The multi-colors, it looks like (On) the Border (Mexican Grill & Cantina),” Strollo said. “… We realize you have a brand, but the thing is that this is in a very nice part of town.”
Ussery said that a redesigned entrance could be investigated by the applicant.
“I guess we can work with the architect and see what we can come up with,” Ussery said.
Commissioners were also concerned about the perceived lack of parking, which they felt could be an issue during peak morning and evening hours.
“I’m just concerned with the number of cars coming into there, plus the medical building, plus the school in the morning, which is already a nightmare,” said commissioner Jeff Natale.
But according to Ussery, The Learning Experience’s other Connecticut locations have a similar number of parking spaces and do not have issues with traffic.
“(Parents) are required to walk into the building with their child, so they have to park in a parking space, they come back out to their car, they get back in the car, and they pull out,” Ussery said. “The whole thing takes about 4 to 5 minutes, depending on the age of the child … It’s no different than going into a parking lot at a Walgreens or a CVS.”
Before final approval, revised architectural plans must be submitted to the town, with a new roofline to match the building to the north and removal of the multi-colored blocks from the entrance.