LAKE IN THE HILLS – A planned day care center on Crystal Lake Road has some area providers worried it will affect their businesses.
Last week, the Village Board approved a plan by developer IRED to build a 10,000-square-foot day care for The Learning Experience at 15 Crystal Lake Road, Lake in the Hills. When plans for the project were publicized, some day care operators within a 5-mile radius were not thrilled with the idea.
Developers say The Learning Experience will have a capacity for 140 children. The center would cater to children from ages 6 weeks to 5 years old.
Kim Hopkins, the executive director of the Learning Tree, which has locations in Algonquin and Huntley, said other day cares in the area have closed recently in the still-recovering economy.
“My whole feeling is, if you have a lifeboat that could fit five people, and you put 10 people on, then everyone sinks,” Hopkins said.
The developers conducted a survey of similar day care facilities within a 5-mile radius and found that many facilities in the area are near capacity, and there is a need for additional day care services, according to village documents.
Hopkins disputed those survey results and said it’s difficult to find a day care with 70 percent to 75 percent occupancy, which is needed for a center to hold its own and pay bills.
“We’re just trying to keep our heads above water,” Hopkins said. “I want to be able to pay our bills, pay employees.”
Joseph Billitteri is the owner of the property and plans to sell it so it can be developed for The Learning Experience.
He said The Learning Experience has more than 100 locations and is poised to spend $2.5 million on the Crystal Lake Road location.
“If they feel they could be a success, they make the decision to enter into the project,” Billitteri said.
“All I know is it’s a good project, we followed the rules, and the vote went the way it should of,” he said.
Michele Clark, owner of Goddard School in Lake in the Hills, said there is a flooded market, and fewer parents are putting their children into child-care centers. She said there are more people relying on relatives to take care of their children.
Clark said Goddard is doing well, but not everyone has 70 percent to 75 percent occupancy.
“That is not a market that lends itself to adding a similar business,” Clark said.
Clark said there are times when competitors do call and do surveys, and her school would say things are going great. Goddard has 25 employees and more than 100 children in the facility and Clark wants to keep everything stable in the school.
But with more competition, all of the day cares will have to work harder.
“Whatever comes our way, I feel my business will survive,” Clark said. “We opened our business where we thought we would thrive. We all will work hard. Competition makes you better in the long run. ... We’re all just going to have to work harder.”