Primrose School of Willow Glen in San Jose, California, represents the school’s entrée into the California market. | Courtesy Primrose Schools

Primrose Schools Eyes SoCal Among 200 Expansion Markets

Carrie Rossenfeld Healthcare & Education

As part of its long-term growth plan, Primrose Schools, a provider of early education and childcare, is planning to add nearly 125 additional locations to its system by the end of 2020 – and Southern California is one of the markets the provider is eyeing. The company has more than 375 schools currently open.

This expansion could have a measurable impact on the markets where new schools are opened. According to Primrose, a new Primrose school positively impacts the local economy by creating at least 20 new jobs and awarding at least $2 million in local development contracts.

Primrose Schools ranked number 1 in the childcare category of Entrepreneur’s Franchise 500, has more than doubled the number of schools open since 2010, and looks to continue that momentum by expanding into small- and medium-sized markets.

According to Bill Pierquet, SVP of school development for Primrose Schools, “In order to meet our goal of having 500 schools in the system by the end of 2020, Primrose will be focusing on growth in 200 new markets across the country as well as expanding in cities where we already have a strong reputation. Our target for this year is to open 36 new schools, which is an increase from last year’s record-breaking 33 new schools opened.”

At the start of the year, Primrose’s school development team had more than 185 schools in the development pipeline, which is a 17 percent increase over its pipeline at the beginning of 2017.

“By the end of the year, we hope to have more than 400 schools open in 31 states,” says Pierquet. “One key to our growth will be these mid-markets, where we plan to bring families the high-quality early education and care they truly want and need. Our team will also be helping to increase the number of schools in large markets already familiar with Primrose, ensuring each community is well-served.”

Primrose Schools still plans to expand its presence in existing major markets across the country. The franchise currently has more than 55 site searches in urban and suburban neighborhoods in major metropolitan areas and vibrant smaller communities across the United States. (Click here to view an aerial video of Primrose School of East Cobb at Paper Mill just outside of Atlanta under construction.)

SoCal Real Estate spoke with Pierquet about the company’s criteria for new school locations and which Southern California markets are being considered.

SoCal Real Estate: What do you look for in a location for a new school?
Pierquet: We’re a 35-year-old early-education and childcare company out of Atlanta, and we have almost 380 locations throughout the country, primarily in Denver and the East Coast and in major metros. California is a big opportunity market. Northern California was our first entrée into the market.

We’re typically looking into are areas with families, with children, with a need for high-quality education and care. I know the market pretty well: Orange County, San Bernardino County and San Diego have some very affluent markets with these attributes.

Which SoCal markets are you considering or targeting for new development?
For San Diego, probably the northern areas. In Orange County, we’re looking Mission Viejo, Lake Forest, Aliso Viejo, and Irvine.

What is the demographic you are targeting?
It’s really all about people with a desire for education. Normally, what we’re looking for are well-educated white-collar employees, and we’re targeting residentially based locations or places near where people work. They’re usually free-standing locations, and we’ll either do ground-up development or adaptive reuse on an existing building.

Anywhere from 12,000 square feet to 14,000 square feet of building space is needed, and we’re required by licensing to have an outdoor play area — we’re typically looking for 10,000 square feet to 15,000 square feet of outdoor play area. In a freestanding setting, we’re looking for 40 to 50 parking stalls. In a redevelopment case, we can make anything work in a two-story building as long as our basic requirements can be met for outdoor and indoor space.

What is unique about school development vs. other types of commercial development?
I started out in the restaurant business. The major difference with childcare development is that you have to have outdoor play space; it’s a license requirement. Finding the right size or configuration of property — especially in office parks or towers — is challenging. There are also certain regulatory requirements in that you have to be more than 1,000 feet or a quarter mile from liquor sales locations — not restaurants, but bottled alcohols and beers. Otherwise, there’s not much difference between this and other types of development projects.