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Child care center will open Aug. 5

Next to the visitors' information center at the entrance to Tampa Palms is a white, wood lakefront structure in Key West style.

It is the office building Ken Good used to plan the community, which opened in 1986.

Soon it will be a home away from home for the children of working parents.

Opening Aug. 5 is KinderCare, a facility billed by its marketing people as a state-of-the-art center for "meaningful care."

In commonspeak, the 25-year-old company is selling day care and after-school care for children up to age 12. Weekly fees, director Judy Douglas said, will range from $55 for after-school care to $140 for infant care.

"Architecturally, the building is very pretty on the inside," said Doug Loyd, who as vice president of sales and marketing for Tampa Palms once worked in the building, vacant since 1993.

But what it offers in form it loses in function, Loyd said. The wide-open interior features 30-foot ceilings, skylights, French doors and lots of windows.

"Essentially, the space wasn't easy to subdivide, so you needed a user who could use 10,000 square feet," Loyd said. "It almost had to be a single user."

And so what once was a workplace is now a "playscape" of "infant suites," rooms and centers in bright hues, with lots of things to touch, sort, build, read, play, study and manipulate.

Imagine working there.

"For us, because this is what we have chosen to do, this is fun," said Douglas, a mother of two who said she began her KinderCare career more than 17 years ago as an "infant teacher."

"I just love kids," she said. "Who else is going to tell you that you look just gorgeous when you know your curls are falling down?"

The center, open from 6:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m., will serve breakfast, snacks and hot lunches. Child-sized tables, on a porch overlooking the lake, are surrounded by playgrounds filled with outdoor playstuff, such as clubhouses, tricycles, nets and balls.

Workers were busy last week discussing lesson plans and strategies for transforming play into the work of childhood.

Saturday, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., parents can visit the center for an open house. A grand opening is scheduled for Aug. 10.

Meanwhile, another business that once had digs in the building is enjoying a new location.

The Tampa Palms Owners Association, which most recently rented space at a Palm Lake office building, has built a new home at Compton Park.

"Now we're in the heart of the community of the people we serve," said Sue Marino, the association's manager.

Association president Bob Van Sicker has said that saving $20,000 a year in rental fees will allow the association to pay off the new office in less than five years and, allowing for operating costs, yield $15,000 in gains after that.

The association, Marino said, enforces deed restrictions, operates Compton Park and River Park and approves proposed building plans.

One of the proposals it approved was KinderCare.

"This is a family community with lots of children and working parents, and day care is so important to everyone," Marino said.