NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) – A new childcare center is moving into a former movie theater. 

The Cine 4 movie theater opened in the 70s and was sold to the Friends Center for Children last year. 

The Friends Center for Children provides early childhood care and education for children ages three months to five years. They already have two centers up and running. Now they are transforming a small movie theater on Middletown Avenue into their third location.

“I spent a lot of time in this movie theater as a young child, and so being able to be here, repurpose it for another community use, to have young children and families find joy and love and light here is amazing,” said Allyx Schiavone, the Friends Center for Children Executive Director. 

Staff held a sneak peek on Sunday, unveiling a rendering of what they imagine the movie theater will look like when it becomes the Friends Center Flint Street. 

Schiavone said there is a desperate need for affordable childcare. 

“New Haven is a childcare desert right now. For every 10 families looking for care, there are only two spots, ao there is a huge need for infant and childhood care in New Haven and throughout the state.”

The plan is for the new center to accommodate up to 80 infants or toddlers. Half of the movie theater will become classrooms. The other half will become offices, a library, and a teacher training center. One theater will be kept to host community movies and local theater productions. Leaders plan to hire 28 educators. 

Although not religious, the Friends Center for Children practices Quaker values and looks for teachers to do the same. 

“If you have a willingness to learn and an openness to understand, I think that’s really the starting point,” said Aundrea Tabbs-Smith, Friends Center for Children HR Talent Associate. 

Latrice Allen-Frasier enrolled her daughter with the Friends Center for Children when she was 18 months old. She said early childhood education paid off. 

“She was able to really expand and grow and her learning, you can just tell her mind opened up,” she said. 

Construction is set to start this summer, and phase one will take about 10 months to complete. Enrollment is expected to begin early next year.