New condo and apartment complexes under construction are a common sight in downtown Phoenix, but the project known as First Place AZ is different.
The $15.3 million apartment building, which will open this summer, is designed for adults with autism. The plan includes numerous safety features, as well as design elements such as quiet appliances to minimize sensory overload.
“First Place represents an innovative approach to housing for special populations,” said Denise Resnik, founder and president of First Place AZ, “and our bold vision is to ensure that housing and community options are as bountiful for people with autism and other neural diversities as they are for everyone else.”
Resnik said the apartment community is the result of nearly 20 years of research and planning by the nonprofit Southwest Autism Research and Resource Center. She hopes Phoenix can be a leader for other cities in accommodating people with autism.
Location was key to the design, she said. The apartments are convenient to medical facilities, community colleges and public transportation.
“Several people with autism and with other different abilities don’t drive,” she said, “and so, how do you get from your home to your big life? Transportation is very important, especially when mom and dad are no longer your wheels.”
First Place isn’t meant to be a group home or medical-care facility, but an apartment community that celebrates neurological diversity, Resnik said. Rent will start at $3,600 a month for a one-bedroom unit. Resnik acknowledged that it’s expensive, but the cost includes a number of in-house services. The building will have 24-hour support staff, and residents will have access to cooking classes, group activities and some health services.
“I think it’s going to be so cool, just being part of a greater community that’s very autism friendly,” said Lindsey Eaton, 24, who will be one of its first residents.
First Place is taking reservations for its 55 units. Doors are set to open in July. More information is online at firstplaceaz.org. April is National Autism Awareness Month.
by Katherine Davis-Young
Public News Service – AZ