University City Children's Center
Early Childhood Education Center
University City, MO
Location: 6646 Vernon Avenue
Area: 23,000 sq.ft.
Cost: $2.3 million
Team Four Architects | 14 North Newstead Avenue, St. Louis, Missouri, 63108 | phone 314.533.2200 fax 314.533.2203
The University City Children's Center has a long and distinguished history of providing high
quality child care and education to the University City area. The Center's sliding scale for tuition
is made possible by the generosity of its supporters and the United Way. The Center recently
became associated with Washington University as the University's designated child care
provider for the Hilltop Campus.
Expansion and Upgrading
The need to expand and the poor condition of the Center's previous facility, with Washington
University's assistance, lead to the purchase of an industrial building on Vernon Avenue north
of the Loop in University City. The Center converted this building into a state of the art child
The building, which contains 36,000 square feet of space, houses the 23,000 square foot
Center for 132 children. The remainder of the space is devoted to Washington University. In
the future, this space will be available to the Center for expansion to over 200 children.
The Center's Program
The Center created eight classrooms in this building. Two house eight infants and toddlers
each; an age group that the Center did not previously serve. One houses a group of 16 two
year olds and the other five house groups of 20 3-5 year old children. The classrooms are
paired for efficiency. Shared areas include restrooms for the children and workrooms for the
teachers. Dining for 3-5 year olds is in a special area across from the classrooms. A kitchen
was constructed for the center, although in the first phase it is used primarily for catering.
This avoided the substantial expenditure for kitchen equipment until the time when the Center's
enrollment is larger and able to justify full food preparation on site.
A large physical education and play area is located across the main gallery from the classrooms.
This space and the dining area are somewhat open to the gallery, adding to the feeling of
spaciousness of the new Center. The physical education area is divisible into smaller spaces for
The Center contains an adult classroom suitable for training volunteers and for community
functions. The physical education area is useable by the Center and by the community for larger
The steel-framed building was constructed in the 1960's. The building is fully covered by a fire
suppression system. For an industrial building, it has relatively low floor to structure height. This
presented some challenges for refitting and upgrading the heating and air conditioning systems,
but has not been a negative factor.
Because of the building's original design for industrial use, windows needed to be added to the
exterior. Since the width of the building is more than needed for a child care center, a broad
activity gallery runs down the center. On one side are displays of art, both student and from
others. On the other side, adjacent to the classrooms, there are several discovery stations. These
stations include display, seating and storage set-off from the main gallery by low walls.
The front of the building was modified to provide an image appropriate to the University City
Children's Center. An existing entry on the east side of the building was modified to be the main
pick-up and drop-off point as well as the public entry.
Outdoor Play and Learning Areas
An extensive outdoor play area is being developed on the west side of the building. It is divided
into areas suitable to several age groups. A trellis will cover the area along the building. Some of
the play area will be paved, but a substantial amount will be planted with shade trees and will
provide a natural learning environment for the children.