First Place AZ Breaks Ground on $15 Million Project in Phoenix

(L to R)  Denise D. Resnik, First Place Founder, CEO and SARRC Co-founder; her son Matt Resnik; and Rob Resnik, Matt’s dad. Photo credit: Stephen G. Dreiseszun/Viewpoint Photographers

PHOENIX, Arizona — First Place®AZ broke ground Tuesday on First Place-Phoenix, a new $15 million residential property for adults with autism and different abilities with a one-of-a-kind approach to combining apartments, a residential training program and a national leadership institute to advance more independent and community integrated living options.

Joining in the groundbreaking were Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton; Arizona Department of Housing Director Michael Trailor; First Place Founder, CEO and SARRC Co-founder Denise D. Resnik; First Place Capital Campaign Cabinet Member and former ULI Arizona Board Chair John Graham; First Place Board Chair Sara Dial; and First Place participants and their families.

First Place AZ is a 501(c)3 non-profit working hard to ensure that housing options for people with autism and other special abilities are as bountiful as they are for everyone else. First Place-Phoenix, an 81,000-square-foot property, is located in the heart of the urban area at 3001 N. Third Street in Phoenix.

“Phoenix is proud to be an inclusive place to live and in the forefront of pioneering new housing options for people of all abilities,” said Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton. “By leading, collaborating and finding creative solutions such as First Place-Phoenix, we continue to be worthy of PBS NewsHour calling Phoenix ‘the most autism friendly city in the world.’”

Rendering – First Place Apartments

According to Michael Trailor, Arizona Department of Housing director, “First Place models housing innovation. Its Transition Academy beta site is situated in a multi-generational affordable housing property and continuously demonstrates the benefits of supportive neighbors, friendships and learning among different age groups and abilities. With the development of First Place-Phoenix, another option is being added to the mix and informing the marketplace through its thoughtful and leading-edge approach.”

Denise D. Resnik, First Place AZ founder, has been contemplating new home options for years. Her 25-year-old son, Matt, has autism.

“First Place is the result of collective and cumulative impact. For 20 years, we have built a supportive community, which has set the stage for First Place. For most of those years, we’ve been researching, planning, collaborating and dreaming with partners across the state and North America,” said Resnik. “Together, we are raising the bar on available residential, training and employment opportunities, with plans to replicate the First Place model and license our programs and curriculum.”

“While First Place represents many things, the most important is that it will be home for the people who live there, including our son Matt, and provide more families with peace of mind,” added Resnik.

First Place-Phoenix will feature three main components:

  • First Place Apartments: 56 studio, one-, two- and four-bedroom units for lease by residents, supported by a suite of independent living services and amenities
  • First Place Transition Academy: A two-year, tuition-based residential training program for participants focused on independent living skills, career readiness and interpersonal relations
  • First Place Leadership Institute: A national training center for professionals, direct service support providers and medical personnel, a robust site for research and public policy advancements

A $21.3 million comprehensive capital campaign continues; $15 million is dedicated to the development of First Place-Phoenix. The campaign represents charitable, private and public sources and also includes start-up operational funding, and fellowships for Teach For America alumni and Arizona State University doctoral and post-doc students. Early funding made the current First Place Transition Academy beta site possible, along with its collaboration with the Southwest Autism Research & Resource Center (SARRC), which serves as the Academy’s operating partner.

Hardison/Downey construction of Phoenix is the general contractor and RSP Architects of Tempe is the architect. Residents are expected to move into First Place-Phoenix in 2018.  Interested residents or participants in the First Place Transition Academy may apply online.

For more information or to become involved, email info@firstplaceaz.org or visit www.firstplaceaz.org.