New $2 million day care center, complete with kiddie pool, coming to Lakewood Ranch

LAKEWOOD RANCH -- A New York firm is planning a Lakewood Ranch day care center and pre-school, expected to cost nearly $2 million.

The owner of The Doodle Bugs! Children's Center filed plans and a permit application with Manatee County last week, according to county documents.

Depending on how long it takes to win approval for construction of the 11,074-square-foot building at 11015 Passage Drive, the company is planning to break ground in July, and expects the center to open April 2016, said Shawn O'Donnell, director of real estate development for DB Lakewood Ranch LLC, of Buffalo, N.Y.

"It's the second location in Florida," O'Donnell said this week. The first is in Lake Worth in South Florida.

Asked why the chain chose Lakewood Ranch, he replied that the company was attracted by the area's significant growth and a receptive market.

"We're just a little bit different than our competitors," said O'Donnell. "We call them our 'Doodle Bugs Differences.'"

Among the differences are such things as 15 bathrooms planned for the building; a 45-foot by 22-foot kiddie pool; a playhouse; outdoor play areas, and its own curriculum, O'Donnell said.

About 25 employees will supervise up to 168 children at the center, he said.

Also in the works at Lakewood Ranch is The Learning Experience, another childcare and early childhood education program slated for Greenbrook Village off Lorraine Road.

Contractors for the Sarasota-based Starling Group are building a 10,000-square-foot facility at 14425 Arbor Green Trail, Greenbrook Village.

Herald reporter Kathryn Moschella contributed to this report.

Sara Kennedy, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7031. Follow her on Twitter@sarawrites.