MOREHEAD CITY — The Carteret County News-Times office building on Bridges Street will be sold to Excel Learning Center to be used as a child day care facility.

The building, at 4206 Bridges St., is currently under contract and the sale will be finalized in August. The News-Times announced in June it has moved its print operations to Greenville.

Over the past five years,  space needs diminished dramatically, said Publisher Lockwood Phillips in an email. He and co-owner and editor Walter Phillips also saw the opportunity to use off-site printing operations with greater capacity.

“That led (us) to look to sell and downsize the physical footprint of the company,” Lockwood Phillips said.

The News-Times has occupied the building on Bridges Street since 2007.

“It’s comforting to know that we’re handing over ownership of the building to a quality company and that it will benefit the community,” Lockwood Phillips said. “As for the future location of the newspaper offices, that is still in the planning stages and should be determined soon.”

On Thursday, the Morehead City Board of Adjustment granted a special-use permit to Excel Learning to operate a child day care center in the building. Excel co-owner Zac Everhart appeared before the board to share plans for new facility.

Mr. Everhart said the plan is for the new center to be Excel’s flagship location in Morehead City. He said the business has been growing in recent years and has a long waitlist for enrollment.

The new day care center will be Excel Learning’s third location in Morehead City, with two others on N. 35th Street. The organization operates 16 day care centers in six southeastern North Carolina counties, including Carteret, Craven, Onslow, Pender, New Hanover and Brunswick.

“Demand in this area has really gotten to where people need child care right now, so we’re trying to expand our operation and help provide that for the community,” he said. “…We have waiting lists at both our (Morehead City) facilities, and I’m well aware that all the other facilities in town do, as well.”

Mr. Everhart said the other two Morehead City centers will remain open initially, but the business may reevaluate after opening.

The center will care for children from age six weeks to 12 years old. Mr. Everhart expects the maximum enrollment at the new center will be 220 children, with 180-190  in attendance on any given day.

The two-story building contains approximately 21,000 square feet, and Mr. Everhart plans to construct a 2,000-square-foot addition on the north side of the facility. The top floor, with about 5,000 square feet, will remain as office space with a separate entrance.

“That (entrance) would not have access to the child care center at all,” he noted. “The child care center entrance would become the west side … so it shouldn’t have any conflict of use there.”

Site plans for the child care center show one large playground is to be constructed to the north of the building, as well as two smaller playgrounds to the west. The plans also call for construction of additional parking spaces, bringing the total to 64.

To obtain the special-use permit required by the city to operate a day care center, Mr. Everhart had to prove the plan meets several criteria, as laid out in the Unified Development Ordinance. The board found the plan fulfills all requirements and voted unanimously to grant the permit.

Some board members brought up concerns that the new facility will add traffic on Bridges Street because a child care center is a more intensive use than the existing one.

Mr. Everhart said while that’s a possibility, pick-up and drop-off times are staggered throughout the morning and afternoon due to varying parents’ schedules, so he doesn’t think it should be a major issue.

“From about 6:30 a.m. to 9 or 10 a.m., it’s a few in, a few out, same thing in the afternoon,” he said.

Mr. Everhart said architects are working on creating final site plans, elevation and floor plans at this time, and the team will move forward on building renovations after the sale is finalized in August.

Contact Elise Clouser at elise@thenewstimes.com; by phone at 252-726-7081 ext. 229; or follow on Twitter @eliseccnt.

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