The new day care coming to downtown Mankato is taking shape, after setbacks in converting its historic building pushed the opening date back.
Cultivate Mankato will bring 149 child care slots to a community in need of more child care options. Renovations on the Ridgely Building at 227 E. Main St. began in 2018.
After initially shooting for a spring opening, owner Candice Deal-Bartell said remaking the big space into the day care is taking longer than expected. A late August opening is the new, rough timeline.
“This is just a massive building,” she said. “Every pipe you see is brand new, so to do all of the plumbing and to route it underground and to the city just took a lot more time than we anticipated.”
Freezing weather pushed the project back as well. It delayed window installations, further pushing back the timeline.
Giving a tour of the progress Wednesday, Deal-Bartell said she now feels like the surprises are over. She expressed excitement at the day care’s progress.
“This is like my dream come true,” she said. “We’re trying to really understand the needs of the Mankato community and the specific needs of the families who work so hard to make the community what it is.”
Most of the 149 slots are filled. Part-time slots, where children attend as little as once per week, are still available.
Mankato’s Economic Development Authority provided a $200,000 City Center Renaissance Loan to help finance the project in February. The funding was available because the day care will create jobs and address a growing child care shortage. A Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation analysis found Blue Earth County needs 906 additional child care slots to meet demand.
The Cultivate Mankato team met with parents to ensure the fit works for both sides before they sign up and pay deposits to reserve spots. Deal-Bartell said she makes sure parents know about the building’s minimal parking — arrangements are available at nearby parking spaces.
She also tries to keep families informed about the uncertain opening date in case they need to make arrangements in the meantime. Deposits can be refunded if the timeline doesn’t work for them. Weekly rates range from $190 for preschool-aged children, $210 for toddlers and $225 for infants.
As the building comes along, she’s moving ahead with hiring and program development. The plan is to hire about 40 total staff, including those already on board.
Anissa Sandland, the day care’s program lead, heard about the project through news coverage. She put the idea in the back of her mind until happening upon Deal-Bartell at the Coffee Hag one day, learned more about her plans and deciding to get involved.
“The core values are right in line with how I try to live my life, with love and authenticity and relationships and community,” she said. “Really for me, that was it.”
She said her anticipation builds with each day’s progress.
“Coming in every day to this building and seeing the changes every day, every time we come in there’s something new, and it’s exciting to see that progress,” she said.
The upper portion of the building, for older children within the six-weeks to five-year age range, is about three weeks ahead of the lower floor. Once open, the day care will feature 12 classrooms, a lactation room for mothers and community space for birthday parties and physical activities like tae kwan do and yoga.
Parents and children came in to help paint a mural on the community room’s walls. A play area out back from the building will be added after it opens.
The majority of the building needed to be renovated, but the Main Street entrance retains a bit of the historic aesthetic. Kasota stone and original flooring remains in place at the Main Street entrance.
Far from deterred by the setbacks, Deal-Bartell said she appreciates the renovation crews’ hard work to keep the project moving.
“We’re just really excited,” she said. “We can’t wait to be open.”