"Technology center" has a hard edge about it, bringing to mind images of no-nonsense endeavors, probably involving micro chips and energetic people in white lab coats. It would seem to be as far from "preschool facility" as any two phrases could be.
At the Birtcher Orange County Tech Center in Santa Ana, the two concepts coexist because child-care and preschool centers are a reality in the modern workplace, according to Brandon R. Birtcher, president of Birtcher Pacific, the Laguna Niguel-based developer of the $34-million, 26-acre project just west of the Newport-Costa Mesa (55) Freeway on Dyer Road.
When it opens in the campus-like development next January, a 5,500-square-foot Armstrong's Learning Center operated by RMA Enterprises, Orange, will be the first preschool in a high-tech development in Orange County, according to Ron Armstrong of RMA Enterprises.
Enrollment will be limited to 120 children from ages 2 to 5, Armstrong said. Although some preference will be given to employees of the tenants of the tech center, the facility will be open to all, he added.
His firm operates nine preschools in Orange, Riverside and San Bernardino counties, but this is the first for his firm in a business center development.
"Mothers prefer to have their children closer to where they work than where they live, especially in Orange County where commuting distances are so large," Armstrong said, adding that he believes such preschool facilities will become an increasingly common element in business centers.
"We had to obtain a zoning variance to get the preschool facility in the project, but the city of Santa Ana was happy to provide us with the variance," Birtcher said.
The park's design by architects DeRevere Partnership, Newport Beach, emphasizes human needs and employee amenities by providing a central urban plaza in the development for recreation and alfresco lunches. The landscape design, featuring palm trees in the urban plaza, along with covered gazebos, was developed by the Runa Group, Newport Beach.
Speaking of lunch, Burger King will provide on-site fast-food service, eliminating for many tenants the need to either "brown-bag it" or clog the already busy Orange County streets at noon searching for a restaurant.
The 386,000-square-foot development was built in what a Birtcher spokesman called one "aggressive" build-out. The project consists of six two-story buildings ranging in size from 29,500 to 102,821 square feet, all connected by a pedestrian circulation loop.
Naturally, the project has state-of-the art communications, including underground computer linkage of all six buildings and on-site satellite transmission capabilities.
The new project has been honored by the Santa Ana Economic Development Corp., winning its Project of the Year award and by the Pacific Coast Builders Conference, winning a 1985 Gold Nugget grand award for best industrial development and a merit award for best mixed-use site plan in the commercial-industrial categories.
John Garakian, director of design at DeRevere Partnership, credits the success of the project to executives at Birtcher, a firm that he says has the foresight to plan for a market that is not necessarily in place: "Excellence can't happen without a developer with vision, courage and a commitment to higher standards."
Birtcher Construction Co. built the technology center and Birtcher Investments, relocating from Beverly Hills, is among the first tenants, occupying 29,500 square feet of space. Another tenant is Dean Witter Reynolds Inc., with about 13,000 square feet of space for a regional processing facility. The Newport Beach office of Coldwell Banker Commercial Real Estate Services is the leasing agent.