By Jodi Weigand
Sunday, July 26, 2015
Glade Run Lutheran Services
Glade Run Lutheran Services is hoping the future apartments at its Zelienople campus will provide a unique neighborhood of tenants who are engaged with their neighbors and community.
A portion of the apartments will be designed to meet the sensory needs of young adults with autism.
“There is just nothing else like it. It's unique in the nation — an engineered community that is inclusive of people with autism and is very diverse,” said Glade Run Foundation Executive Director Sheila Talarico.
The $30 million housing development known as Jeremiah Village will be constructed in two phases. Phase one, slated to be completed in Spring 2017, will include three buildings with 144 efficiency, one- and two-bedroom apartments, plus a community center with a pool, fitness center, classroom and lounge area.
Twenty-four of the apartments, eight in each building, will be designed for people with autism. This includes extra soundproofing, soothing paint colors and other amenities designed to meet their unique sensory needs.
Phase two, which is still in the planning phase, will include 68 townhouses and cottages.
Jeremiah Village will be built on 12 acres at the front of the campus on West Beaver Street, within walking distance of the heart of Zelienople.
Glade Run is a nonprofit that provides autism, mental health and educational programming to children and families in more than 50 school districts in the region. It also has locations in Butler, Beaver Falls, Cranberry and Pittsburgh.
Its other locations provide on-site, in-home and at-school behavioral health services.
Talarico said the idea for the apartments came from a desire to expand Glade Run's impact in the community and to generate revenue to support its core programs. This includes St. Stephen's Academy, a special education school and a residential treatment program, both at the Zelienople campus.
“We started to look at our campus and the unmet needs in our community, and what we were hearing is that kids with autism are getting older, and there's a serious lack of transitional offers and housing,” she said.
The foundation expects the apartments alone to generate about $400,000 a year. Glade Run is nearly 100 percent government- funded, and those dollars haven't kept up with rising costs.
“We needed to find alternative ways to support ourselves outside of fundraising,” Talarico said.
The housing must be open to everyone, but Glade Run's hope is that, through marketing efforts, it will be able to attract young adults, seniors, handicapped, professionals and others who are interested in connecting with their neighbors and their community.
“The people who live in Jeremiah Village will be expected to give back,” Talarico said. “We're going to ask all the residents to share their talents. Like if you knit, you could do a knitting class or are a retired accountant (and) could teach people how to balance a checkbook; it could be video games — anything, really.”
The goal is to provide opportunities for those with autism to engage with others because that's not something that they typically do on their own, she said.
“The initial idea was to create housing for adults with autism, but we heard from parents and advocates that they didn't want to live in a group home; they wanted to live in a regular neighborhood that's diverse and has a variety of different people there,” Talarico said. “Just like everybody else.”
OTHER CHANGES IN STORE
Also part of the construction is a one-acre sensory park and playground to serve children with autism in the community and those that live at Glade Run or attend St. Stephen's Academy.
Glade Run demolished several unused housing units and other buildings to make room.
The park will be enclosed with a fence and have clear walking paths and play zones because unorganized spaces make it difficult for some autistic children to engage in activities.
There will be various sensory areas that can both soothe and stimulate and places where kids can practice coordination, balance and movement.
“All kids will enjoy this space,” said Talarico. “It will enhance our current program offerings and also provide an opportunity for the community to take advantage of a unique offering.”
The $750,000 park is expected to be completed in November.
Glade Run is also building a new recreation center that will connect to St. Stephen's. It will have an autism-friendly gymnasium and an indoor track.