Evanston aldermen approves plans for downtown daycare center

Kimberly Railey

Without any discussion, Evanston aldermen on Monday approved the opening of a large day care facility that will reserve 60 spots for children of Northwestern employees.

Bright Horizons Family Solutions will operate the two-story center at 1629 Orrington Ave., a location that has been vacant for 10 years. Expected to open in September, it will provide services for up to 308 children, Deborah Brown, the company’s vice president for client services, told The Daily earlier this month.

The national for-profit youth services provider projects to enroll 168 children up to age three and 140 children who are ages four and five . Plans for the downtown Evanston location include renovating more than 25,000 square feet of space and building playgrounds on the roof and exterior of the building, according to a Jan. 4 memo submitted to the Planning and Development Committee.

The company currently runs a center that caters to about 80 children at 1000 Central St. across from Evanston Hospital – another partnership between the University and Bright Horizons. The growing waitlist at that facility catalyzed the development of the Orrington Avenue site, Brown said.

Northwestern economics Prof. Mark Witte said the high occupancy of nearby day care centers prevented his children from enrolling in one five years ago.

“We looked at some but weren’t able to get in,” Witte said. “They’re just too crowded.”

Had the Bright Horizons center existed during Witte’s search, he said it would have been a viable option for his kids. The Orrington Avenue location, he added, will also make the downtown area more amenable to families.

The new facility will also revitalize an Evanston spot that has been quiet for years, said Lindsay Percival, interim executive director of the Child Care Center of Evanston at 1840 Asbury Ave.

Still, Percival said she does not find the large size of the center necessary, saying the preschools and learning centers in Evanston already provide adequate space for 3- to 5-year-olds.

“It’s going to be the size of a small grade school, and there’s going to be people that like a center that feels like that,” Percival said. “And there’s going to be parents that don’t. I just hope that when Bright Horizons comes they maintain the same high quality of childcare as do the other childcare providers in Evanston.”

Brown could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

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