A longtime Las Vegas preschool is moving to greener pastures, literally.
Variety Early Learning Center on Wednesday closed a deal with the City Council to move into the former Nevada State Museum building at Lorenzi Park, a grassy, urban expanse characterized by mature shade trees and featuring a large man-made lake.
The move, made possible by a unanimous vote of the council, will allow the school to expand its offerings to more families and put the children in a building that is surrounded by wide-open spaces, animal life and play space.
The lease includes a 30-year primary term at a rate of $1 per year plus two 10-year options, "at an amount reasonably negotiated by landlord and tenant upon tenant's request to exercise the option term," according to lease documents.
"As we move into Lorenzi Park, our goal is to make this the best early learning center in Nevada," said Bill Thomas, chairman of the learning center's board of directors. "We need something now, and this is perfect."
The school has about 125 children now, Thomas said, and could double its enrollment at the new site.
It has an annual operational budget of about $1 million and is supported by grants, private donations and tuition, which is charged on a sliding scale based on a family's ability to pay.
The learning center, a nonprofit, was founded in 1956 as the Divine Providence Variety Day Home and operated by the Sisters of the Holy Family.
It changed its name to Variety Early Learning Center to reflect its nonsectarian mission and in 1982 added infant care and scholarships for low-income families.
Yet the school continued to operate at the same location at 990 D St. near the historic West Side School. The address of the new location will be 700 Twin Lakes Drive.
Cosmetic improvements in recent years haven't been enough to overcome structural and other shortcomings of the existing facility, said Arnold Stalk, the development consultant who put together the deal with the city for the former museum building.
"It is just tired, old and obsolete for a school," he said, adding that the former museum will be a big improvement. "It absolutely fits perfect, it has got high ceilings, it has clear spans. There are no columns in the exhibit spaces."
The Nevada State Museum moved from Lorenzi Park to a $51.5 million building at the Springs Preserve in 2011, a move that was delayed several years for financial reasons.
Stalk is working with volunteer groups to coordinate renovations before students move to the former museum in early to mid-2013, including Repurpose America, an organization that recycles material from conventions and construction into new uses.
Stalk also plans to coordinate with skilled-labor volunteers for as much work as possible.
Contact reporter Benjamin Spillman at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-224-5512.