Nationwide preschool chain eyeing site in northern Milpitas

A vacant building with a 63-foot-tall clocktower whose future has been in limbo for years in north Milpitas appears to have found a purpose — to become a preschool.

At one point, the site had been considered for a hotel, but neighbors opposed it and the idea was abandoned. The current proposal by the Primrose Preschools — a nationwide chain — to convert the site to a preschool seems to have won over residents.

Rekha Pardeshi, a Milpitas homeowner who lives around the corner from the site, said she is in full support of the preschool project.

“The preschool is very welcome in the neighborhood,” said Pardeshi, who has lived in the area for about 10 years. “It will help our neighborhood. We have a lot of young families that are moving in now. It would be great to have a preschool where kids can go not far from home. Especially during Covid… parents can easily go pick their children up.”

Pardeshi was among the area’s residents who opposed the hotel project, since it was going to be taller than the existing building already at 1000 Jacklin and “was not going to be safe for the neighborhood.”

If approved by the city, Primrose Preschools would take over and retrofit the two-story, 24,000 square foot building at 1000 Jacklin Road, located close to Highway 680 and near Oliver W. Jones Memorial Park.

The building, which features stucco painted burnt sienna-colored arches surrounding its perimeter, is the former site of a gym. The plan would accommodate enough space for 14 classrooms and 266 students, and help close the shortage of childcare.

Erik Schoennauer, a longtime Bay Area land-use and property consultant who is behind the project, described the location of the proposed preschool as “perfect” considering its vicinity to the highway. Schoennauer has been behind multiple recent development projects in the region, including a mixed-use village in north San Jose and the transformation of a flea market in the city that led to protests from existing vendors.

Aside from the convenient location, Schoennauer also said that the region’s overall lack of childcare services — and its high costs — is another reason to support that the project should go through.

“There is an extreme shortage of childcare spots in the South Bay, including Milpitas,” said Schoennauer. “There is a much greater need than is being satisfied. We need more childcare to satisfy the need.”

In January 2020, the city’s Planning Commission voted down a proposal for the existing building to be demolished and for a 105-room La Quinta Inn hotel to be built, stating that it would not “foster community pride.” The vote came after community members in the surrounding area protested the hotel’s construction, claiming it would block their views, invade their privacy and increase traffic congestion.

The city council then denied the hotel proposal in a split vote in April 2020, with Mayor Rich Tran stating he was concerned with the hotel’s “dominating visual prominence.”

Fauja Bariana, a 35-year-long resident in the area who remembers a racquetball court at the proposed site in the late 1990s, echoed Pardeshi’s remarks.

“I’m all for any business that serves the community,” he said. “I think it’ll definitely benefit the neighborhood and the city.”

Timothy Alcorn, a former member of the Planning Commission 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 by this project,” said Alcorn. “This preschool would actually be pretty perfect. Plus, as a parent, we need more preschools in Milpitas.”

Primrose, a franchiser of day care and early education, has hundreds of locations around 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.

There already is competition in the area if the Milpitas preschool is built; right across from 1000 Jacklin is KinderCare, a preschool and daycare center.

Along with nearly every other cost in the region, childcare expenses have also gone through the roof. Across Santa Clara, Marin, San Francisco, Alameda and San Mateo counties, yearly prices can exceed more than $20,000 per year for one child, according to data from California Child Care Resource and Referral Network.

In addition, inflation has pushed costs even higher. Sima Shah, owner of Primrose’s Cupertino and Willow Glen locations, said that childcare in the region is expected to increase by 10% this coming year. Shah herself has had to hire more staff members because of health regulations surrounding COVID-19.

“Operational costs have gone really high,” said Shah, who will take over the Milpitas location if it is approved.

While Shah said she couldn’t give an exact estimate as to how much the new preschool will cost per month, it will be “much lower” than what she charges at her two existing locations, which hovers at around $3,000 per month.

The city will host a virtual meeting on Jan. 10 to discuss the project.

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