The first floor of Marketown could soon house the third childcare centre to pop up in the distinctly urban setting of Newcastle West.
AMP Capital, which manages Marketown, has lodged plans with Newcastle City Council to build a 61-place long-daycare centre in space now occupied by shops near Big W.
The proposal follows the opening this month of Go Kindy on the second and third floors of an office building in Core Project Group’s commercial, residential and hotel development between Hunter and King streets.
Little Unicorn at Honeysuckle was the precinct’s first childcare centre.
Artwork submitted with the Marketown proposal shows a play area alongside a line of large windows looking out over Steel Street.
The vice-president of the Australian Childcare Alliance, Nesha Hutchinson, said inner-city concrete and glass might not fit Novocastrians’ traditional picture of a childcare environment, but location and convenience were increasingly crucial factors for time-poor parents.
“In places like Sydney and Melbourne, they’ve had to find facilities that are conveniently located for families in order to make them accessible, and that means that there isn’t a lot of trees and things like that,” she said.
“It may be that, for families in Newcastle who are living locally to shopping centres and office blocks and working there, the thought of driving half an hour to a childcare centre where there is a big, open field and then driving back just isn’t feasible in what they’re trying to get through each day.
“So while there’s a lot of move towards open nature spaces in early childhood, and that’s a great thing to aspire to, it’s not always feasible.
“The highest indicator of the quality of care is the relationships with educators, so that should be what people are focused on. And that can be achieved in these centres.”
Marketown centre manager Jenna Corcoran said demand for convenient childcare facilities had increased in the Newcastle CBD due to the number of residential apartments being built.
She said the Marketown childcare centre would be part of the Montessori Academy chain.
Ms Hutchinson said the need for childcare centres in inner Sydney and Melbourne was “quite dire”.
“The same thing is going to be happening in Newcastle as the population grows and the density increases in the CBD area,” she said.
“Newcastle and the Central Coast, I know there are lots of childcare centres in those areas where there’s lots of service providers can’t fill them because there are no children there.
“You get cheap land, you get lots of it, you build a childcare centre, but there aren’t families in those areas. Then you get providers who put centres where families need them, but there’s not a big, open field.
“It’s balancing what families see as traditionally a childcare centre against what works for them in their day-to-day life of pick-ups and drop-offs and getting there on time.”
Ms Hutchinson said childcare centres had mandated space allocations for gross-motor play, but these were not necessarily outside.
“There was a five-storey childcare centre I saw the designs for in Sydney, and the top floor was open for the kids, but the other four floors weren’t and the kids moved up and down at various times of day.
“Montessori have centres in the heart of Sydney, at Barangaroo and Bondi Junction, so they know how to do good childcare centres in these kind of environments.
“They are not going to let these kids miss out on all the running, jumping, climbing, crawling, tumbling stuff.”