An artist's rendering of a possible apartment design for Faison's Compassionate Community Illustration courtsey the Faison School for Autism
It's been about two years since the old Executive Hotel — alternately an eyesore or a charming landmark depending on whom you asked — was reduced to rubble and signs went up on the vacant lot where it once stood heralding the impending arrival of a new landmark, the optimistically dubbed Compassionate Community.
Planned as a take on the popular mixed-use and mixed-income community development concept, but with a twist, the Compassionate Community as envisioned by the Faison School for Autism would be an innovative method of providing independent living opportunities for its clients. About two-thirds of the complex is envisioned as housing for professionals like teachers and medical professionals whose careers already touch the lives of individuals with autism.
The project had the misfortune of kicking off just as the economy kicked the bucket.
But as the weeds grow on the vacant Broad Street lot near Willow Lawn, Faison School officials say they not only remain committed to the project, they're now seeing the delay as a good thing.
"We hit a market that wasn't favorable," says Wendy Kreuter, Faison's vice president for operations and finance. The setbacks have allowed the school time to hone the programs that it plans to implement at the project, which may well be the first of its kind when it finally is built and occupied.
Helping to review those plans is Dr. Michael C. Strouse, a Kansas-based expert in support and independent-living options for people with autism and developmental delays.
Everything is being tweaked, Kreuter says. The original plans for the 78,000-square-foot facility are being reconsidered to better facilitate programming offerings.
On the programming side, ongoing research into how people with autism spectrum disorders learn has advanced greatly, and the downtime has allowed Faison to consult with Strouse and to literally design those new developments into the project's blueprints.
The complex will offer not only independent living, Kreuter says, but also a unique ongoing habilitative and training program for people with autism spectrum disorders or other similar developmental delays.
"We're committed to it," says Kreuter, who adds that fundraising continues toward the $15 million project.