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First Place Phoenix: Breaking New Ground

Courtesy of hardison/downey

By Denise Resnik for hardison/downey

hardison/downey will soon break ground on First Place-Phoenix, a major project set in the heart of the urban region.

First Place AZ is an independent nonprofit and sister organization to the Southwest Autism Research & Resource Center (SARRC), backed by 16 years of research, support from the Urban Land Institute and more than 80 local and national collaborators. First Place AZ is positioned for transformational impact on how society approaches housing and community development for individuals with autism and other special abilities. It represents new residential prototypes, allowing greater choice based on individual needs and interests.

First Place AZ aims to ensure that residential and community options for people with autism and other special abilities are as bountiful as they are for everyone else. To realize this vision, the nonprofit is breaking new ground with its first major development, First Place-Phoenix, which will serve as home for the people who live there, an enriching environment for those who work and learn there, and peace of mind for families and friends who come and go.

Residents will enjoy a suite of services and amenities, with all the benefits of community-connected living: transportation, health care, employment, continuing education and recreation. Students will learn independent living skills, integrating into the fabric of the community as recognized citizens, neighbors, employees and friends. And families, people with autism and thought-leaders will collaborate on housing solutions through training, education, research and public policy in order to facilitate more replicable options.

First Place owns 1.4 acres of land at Third Street and Catalina, within walking distance to light rail and public transit. The site has been strategically located near the campus of Dignity Health – St. Joseph’s Hospital & Medical Center (SJHMC) and Barrow Neurological Institute (BNI), and includes three major components: (1) the First Place Apartments, 56 studio, one-, two- and four-bedroom units (supportive housing for residents, including ASU doctoral and post-doctoral student fellows and Teach For America alumni); (2) the First Place Transition Academy, a two-year tuition-based program for young adults with autism, modeled after the celebrated Taft Transition to Independent Living Program which has saved the State of California hundreds of millions of dollars; in year one participants live at First Place-Phoenix and year two they transition to an affordable housing property; and (3) the First Place Leadership Institute, representing a faculty of luminaries from across the country, focused on pressing concerns that open doors to more housing and independent living options for individuals with special needs.

Five centers within the Leadership Institute facilitate the critical work and impact of First Place and include Centers for Training/Education/Employment, Real Estate & Community Development, Applied Research, Expression and Public Policy.

First Place AZ is the owner. RSP Architects is the architect, and hardison/downey is the general contractor.

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