Early childhood education provider Next Door
recently completed a $1.2 million renovation of its main campus on Milwaukee's near north side.
The nonprofit organization directed a portion of its 50th anniversary campaign funds to complete the projects at its education center at 2545 N. 29th St.
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Two indoor play areas were renovated to create interactive “under the sea”-themed and outer space-themed areas that include equipment to help promote gross motor development through reading, crawling, climbing and balancing.
The library was also converted into a rainforest-themed space for Next Door’s Read with Me program, through which students are paired with community reader volunteers and are gifted books to build their own home libraries.
Next Door also added a café-style parent engagement center for one-one-one meetings and trainings.
Next Door hosted several focus groups with parents and staff members to get feedback on what design elements they wanted to see in the space.
"We took all of that feedback and it was provided to the design companies, and they helped in bringing that vision to life," said Myranda Syrjanen, vice president of programs for Next Door.
Interior renovations were designed by Lincolnwood, Illinois-based Luci Creative, and Ravenwood Studios, also of Lincolnwood, provided construction support. ABM, which has offices in Milwaukee, provided installation support.
Next Door serves about 350 children, ages birth to 5 years old, at the 29th Street campus. It operates another early childhood center at 5310 W. Capitol Dr., which has about 400 children.
In total, Next Door serves about 1,400 children and families among its centers, home visitations and 11 partnership sites.
The organization closed its doors briefly in spring 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, before reopening to in-person instruction in June 2020. Because of public health restrictions, families haven't yet been able to see the building renovations in person.
"We're really looking forward to seeing families' reactions," Syrjanen said. "This summer, we're starting to go back to more of our pre-COVID types of processes, so families will be welcomed back into the building and be able to drop off their children at their classroom door, so it will be really exciting for many of them to see the change."
Next Door held its 50th anniversary campaign throughout 2019. Northwestern Mutual was its largest corporate donor.