An empty building with a 63-foot-high belfry whose future in North Milpitas has been in limbo for years has found a purpose—to become a preschool.
At one point, the site was considered for a hotel, but neighbors opposed it and the idea was abandoned. The current proposal by Primrose Preschool – a nationwide chain – to convert the site into a preschool has won over residents.
Milpitas homeowner Rekha Pardeshi, who lives around the corner from the site, said she is in full support of the preschool project.
“Preschools in the neighborhood are very welcome,” said Pardeshi, who has lived in the area for nearly 10 years. “It will help our neighbourhood. We have a lot of young families who are moving in now. It would be great to have a preschool where kids can’t go too far from home. Especially during Covid…Parents can easily go to pick up their kids.”
Pardeshi was among the residents of the area who opposed the hotel project, as it was going to be 1000 Jacqueline’s taller than the current building and “was not going to be safe for the neighbourhood.”
If approved by the city, Primrose Preschool will take over and remodel the two-story, 24,000-square-foot building at 1000 Jacqueline Road, located near Highway 680 and Oliver W. Jones Memorial Park.
The building, which has stucco-painted burnt sienna-colored arches around its perimeter, is the former site of a gym. The scheme will accommodate 14 classrooms and enough space for 266 students, and will help address the shortage of childcare.
Eric Schoenauer, a longtime Bay Area land-use and property consultant who is behind the project, described the location of the proposed preschool as “perfect” given the area around the highway. Schoennauer has been behind several recent development projects in the area, including a mixed-use village in northern San Jose and the transformation of a flea market in the city that led to opposition from existing vendors.
In addition to the convenient location, Schoenauer also said that the overall lack of childcare services in the region – and its high cost – is another reason to support the completion of this project.
“There is an acute shortage of childcare spots in the South Bay, including Milpitas,” Schoenauer said. “There is a greater need than to be satisfied. We need more childcare to meet the need.”
In January 2020, the city’s planning commission rejected a proposal to demolish the existing building and build the 105-room La Quinta Inn hotel, saying it “would not promote community pride.” The vote came after community members in the surrounding area opposed the construction of the hotel, claiming it would block their views, invade their privacy and increase traffic congestion.
The city council then rejected the hotel’s proposal in a split vote in April 2020, with Mayor Rich Tran saying he was concerned with the hotel’s “major visual prominence”.
Fauja Bariana, a 35-year-old resident of the area who remembers a racquetball court at the proposed site in the late 1990s, echoed Pardeshi’s remarks.
“I am for any business that serves the community,” he said. “I think it will definitely benefit the neighborhood and the city.”
Timothy Alcorn, a former planning commission member who voted against the hotel proposal, said in an email that the preschool is “miles better” than the hotel proposal.
“The hotel would have been a nightmare for everyone close to this project,” Alcorn said. “This preschool would be really perfect. Plus, as a parent, we need more preschools in Milpitas.”
Primrose, a franchisor of day care and early education, has hundreds of locations across the country, including sites in San Jose, Cupertino, Pleasanton and Livermore. It’s parent organization is Roark Capital Group, a private equity firm based out of Georgia that oversees $33 billion in assets.
If Milpitas Preschool is built there is already competition in the area; Just opposite 1000 Jacqueline is Kindercare, which is a preschool and daycare centre.
As with almost every other cost in the area, childcare expenses have also gone through the roof. In Santa Clara, Marin, San Francisco, Alameda and San Mateo counties, annual prices for a single child can exceed $20,000 a year, according to data from the California Child Care Resource and Referral Network.
In addition, inflation has pushed up the cost even more. Seema Shah, owner of Primrose’s Cupertino and Willow Glen locations, said childcare in the region is expected to grow by 10% this coming year. Shah himself has had to hire more staff members due to the health regulations surrounding COVID-19.
“The operating cost has become really high,” said Shah, who will take over the location of Milpitas if it is approved.
While Shah said she could not give an exact estimate of how much the new preschool would cost per month, it would be “much lower” than the roughly $3,000 a month fee at her two existing locations.