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Valley and Ventura County | VENTURA COUNTY REVIEW /

Day-Care Center Planned for Conejo Plaza Site


Drop off the laundry, pick up the groceries, get some early childhood education for the kids.

That soon could be a typical weekday outing for parents at the Conejo Plaza shopping center in Thousand Oaks, where in March, Woodcrest Preschools Inc. of Tarzana is planning to open a child-care center.

"It's one-stop shopping," said John Heffernan, a sales and leasing associate with the Capital Commercial/New America Intl. real estate group, which represented the property owner in negotiating a lease with Woodcrest Schools Inc.

"You have Ralphs there, you have a dry cleaners and now you have a day-care and school," Heffernan said. "You can go to one place and get the main family chores done in one stop."

Woodcrest Preschools will operate from a 9,000-square-foot former video store site, converting parking-lot space into a dirt-asphalt playground. Enrollment will be open to children ages 2 to about 5, with infant care a possibility later. Officials expect up to 165 children to attend.

Although shopping centers may not seem natural locations for preschools, they seem to be gaining in popularity.

"The child-care industry is very real estate sensitive--we look for commercial real estate that makes sense to us," said Scott Lieberman, vice president of Educational Concepts, the organization that scouted the Woodcrest site and arranged leasing of the property.

"We need to be in an area that would lend itself to commercial rates," Lieberman said. "It's becoming more and more common to find retailers not making it in a shopping center, so [day-care centers] may be able to find end space available that has a parking area for a playground."

Lieberman said day-care centers more frequently are shifting away from traditional locations.

"Some of the things [Educational Concepts] is involved in is child-care centers inside of movie theaters--that's something that's just booming," he said. "We're also seeing child care in supermarkets. If that will happen in Ventura County, I can't say, but there are some opportunities in Agoura that just haven't come to fruition yet."

The Thousand Oaks site will be the third for Woodcrest Preschools, which has schools in Agoura Hills and in a Newbury Park residential neighborhood. Expansion in Ventura County is a possibility.

"We're seeing more and more opportunities for young families moving toward Ventura County," Lieberman said. "And we would like to take advantage, at least right now, of good real estate prices in land and of having very highly skilled population with an educational background that understands that children need [early] education."

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