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‘A bigger building for bigger kids’
Building Blocks expands with facility for school-aged kids
By By Jill Meier
Challenger editor

April 17. 2014 9:14AM
“A bigger building for bigger kids.”

That’s how Beth Hanna describes the new addition coming to the Building Blocks campus on the west side of Brandon.

A groundbreaking ceremony last Monday officially kicked off the building project that is on schedule for a late August opening.

Hanna, who took over Building Blocks Childcare and Learning Center in 2011, is expanding the business with a 7,000 square-foot addition. The new building, which is under construction directly east of the Center, will be licensed for 105 school-aged children (K-5). Hanna said once the School Age Center is open, about 90 children will move out of the current Center into the new surroundings. That move will allow for 20 to 30 openings between the two facilities.

“I wanted these kids to feel like they have their own place. They need more space.
They’re big, and they’re busy,” Hanna said. “And I’ve wanted to own my own childcare center since the community put the bug in our ear, because the demand is so high in Brandon.”

All of the city’s commercial childcare centers combined are licensed for less than 600 children, Hanna said.

Kim Cerwick, president/CEO of the Brandon Valley Area Chamber of Commerce said the School Age Center will help in meeting a need for child care in the city.

“Building Blocks has filled a need in our community and, as Brandon continues to grow it is great to see them investing in the community and continuing to fill the needs for the K-5 children needing a safe place to grow and learn after school,” said Cerwick.

The 3,500 square-foot School Age Center will have a regulation-sized basketball court. The sport court will be striped for basketball and volleyball; an outdoor basketball court and playground turf are also part of the planned expansion, as well as an age-appropriate playground.

Hanna plans to open the gym to the public for a free will donation. But she said it’s not large enough for tournaments, as there is little perimeter space and there are no bleachers.

“We know how tight gym space is in the community,” Hanna said. “And obviously the gym is what we wanted and is intended for us, but the community was in the back of our minds.”

The 105-kid capacity is based on the number of bathrooms. “It’s a lot of area but one of the biggest areas is the gym,” Hanna said.

Hanna said Child Care Center’s preschoolers will also have access to the gym.

The new addition will also feature two classrooms. One will be utilized as an area to study, perform science experiments, do arts and crafts or work in the computer lab.

“We feel education is very important, it’s our number one priority from our pre-toddlers on up.” Hanna said, adding that every classroom is staffed by a certified teacher.

The second classroom will have more of a loft feel, Hanna said, intended for small group activities such as dramatic play and tub toys/games.

The floor plan also includes a coatroom and large storage area. A separate three-stall bus garage (800 square feet) is also part of the expansion. The Center currently has two buses with plans to add a third this fall. A third bus, Hanna said, will allow her staff to transport kids to and from Fred Assam Elementary and will also be used for field trips. The parking lot will also be extended by 35 spaces.
The Center’s expansion will also expand the Building Blocks payroll. Hanna plans to add 8 to 10 teachers for the two buildings.

Hanna and her husband, Dan, purchased the vacant lot about 1.5 years ago, and last June, after renting the facility since 2011, they purchased the building.

G.A. Johnson Construction is the general contractor for the project, which is financially supported by 1st Premier Bank and the Small Business Administration. Todd Stone of Stone Group Architects is the project architect.

“We tried really hard to use as many businesses of the families we have in our building,” Hanna said. Local businesses – Brandon Lumber, Oakridge Nursery & Landscaping, A-Plus Concrete and IT Outlet – are all supplying services to the project.

“This is an investment in the community,” Hanna said. “And we’re just super excited to be able to help this community because the need for quality childcare is huge.”

Ground was officially turned on April 7 for the Building Blocks School Age Center in Brandon. Owners Beth and Dan Hanna were joined by city dignitaries, Building Blocks staff, representatives from the financing and construction firms involved with the project. The School Age Center is scheduled to open in late August. Photo by Jill Meier

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