The former site of Borders Books has been vacant for nearly two years. (Photo by Pete Mazzaccaro)

by Lane Blackmer

While some residents would rather have an alluring new business than a daycare center housed in Chestnut Hill’s old Borders location, others think the daycare is downright unnecessary.

After two years sitting empty, the former Borders building at 8701 Germantown Ave. finally got a new tenant. In October, the Local learned that Children of America, a national daycare and early learning chain, had indeed signed a lease for the property and planned to open as soon as March 2012.

While some on the Avenue are happy to see a tenant take over the building – others are questioning the need for yet another daycare provider.

There are many daycare facilities already in Chestnut Hill on Germantown Avenue: Cuddles-N-Care, Little House on the Hill, Christ Ascension Lutheran and the Presbyterian Church of Chestnut Hill, to name a few.

United Cerebral Palsy of Chestnut Hill also operates a full-service daycare on East Mermaid Lane. Many schools in the area also have pre-K programs.
According to the 2000 census, the 19118 ZIP code has 9,600 residents, about 7 percent of whom are under 5 years of age. That adds up to almost 700 pre-kindergarten-aged children. That would seem like enough young children to go around, but not everyone’s convinced.

Marlo King, owner of Cuddles-N-Care at 7700 Germantown Ave., is one of those people. She said she was not happy to hear that another daycare was coming to the Hill.
“I think it’s not needed,” she said.

King said she’s lacking clients as it is. Now she’s concerned about Children of America hurting small daycares like hers.

“Considering the economy we’re in.  [Children of America] will take even more from us,” she said. “It’s competition.”

King does, however, remain hopeful parents will choose smaller daycares like hers over a large, corporate entity.

But daycares in and around Chestnut Hill aren’t the only option for parents. Chestnut Hill is a neighborhood where many residents prefer employing nannies.

Abigail Hanson, a Chestnut Hill nanny, said she thinks more residents prefer nannies to daycare, period. After searching for additional nanny jobs, Hanson said Chestnut Hill currently has several listings.

She attributes this preference to the appeal of having someone pick the child up from school and keep them in their own environment.

So, with all the options available, is there a potential market for another daycare in Chestnut Hill or not? Apparently Children of America thinks so. And it isn’t the only childcare provider who thinks there is a market.
(Children of America declined to discuss the question or its fee structure with the Local.)

Eileen Reilly, retail recruiter for Chestnut Hill, said she’s heard inquiries from at least two other childcare providers about leasing space in the neighborhood.

Reilly said she thinks Children of America will thrive in Chestnut Hill and is on board with the community mindset many residents seem to have.

“I feel the fact that they took on such a big property that needed work – that’s a commitment,” said Reilly.

Reilly said the daycare provider has leased the property, but is unsure whether they’ve received all proper permits from the city.

What do you think? See our poll on the Chestnut Hill Local’s Facebook Page: