Plans for a $100 million purpose-built childcare centre designed to create a “real world” experience for children has been approved in South Melbourne’s Fishermans Bend precinct.
The 8 Buckhurst Street site had originally been approved for four 30-storey towers, before Mike Wu and Shan Kuo, founders and owner-operators of Melbourne’s Little Lane early learning centres, purchased and reconfigured the development site.
China-backed property group Botree Group originally had a permit to deliver more than 1000 units in the four-tower project.
But Wu and Kuo purchased the 9,500sqm site for $61.8 million in 2017, with plans to kick off construction on the major early learning centre development in January next year.
The couple currently have a portfolio of seven childcare centres across Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne, expected to fetch around $150 million on the market.
Their latest venture in the works, Emerald Place, is designed by Japanese architect Takaharu Tezuka along with local architect Steve Milton.
“Through the design we are intentionally taking children out of their comfort zones and creating obstacles and challenges that will aid their learning and development,” Tezuka said of the centre’s design.
Tezuka said elements include sloped and inclined surfaces, designed to create “small inconveniences” and “simple challenges” for the children.
“These small difficulties are representative of the world outside the childcare centre, thereby helping prepare them as they grow,” he said.
“Inconvenience is very important. That is why we have the incline. Melbourne is not flat either so why should we design the school flat? We should provide an inconvenient slope... This is the preparation for the real world. It’s training.”
Wu and Kuo said the centre will accommodate up to 380 children and 100 staff.
“I wanted a big site to do something visionary,” Wu said. “Something that highlights our early childhood education philosophy.”
The pair currently operate 17 early learning facilities across Australia.
Last year Wu and Kuo sold nine childcare centres to Folkestone Education Trust, now the Charter Hall Education Trust, for $63 million in a sale-and-leaseback agreement.