At first glance, First Place is like any other building—it has a blueprint and the basic building blocks that make up a structure, with rooms and places for activities. Sitting empty, you could walk through the halls and imagine many things happening here.

But then a magic ingredient is added—community.

 Over the course of the First Place blog and stories, we’ll be sharing a lot of those magic ingredients. Community is just the first of many essentials that take First Place and sets it apart, gives it power, and helps it become a place that empowers. But, for now, community is a great place to start, because when it comes to First Place, community is at its heart.

The idea of community can take on many meanings, and for First Place, there are quite a few. First, there is the physical—where is this community? First Place is located in the heart of Greater Phoenix, the 6th largest metropolitan area in the U.S. A transit-oriented development, First Place is leveraging the benefits of a supportive urban area, connecting residents to jobs, friends, lifelong education, the arts, recreation and other aspects of a community.

However, beyond those things that you see when you walk out the door, First Place is a development that brings together the essential intangibles of community, like learning about your neighbor, making friends, forming memories and creating a true sense of home, purpose and belonging—socially as well as physically.

The Goals of First Place:

1) Create an internationally recognized development with a mix of residential options that serves as home for individuals with autism and other special abilities.

a. Develop the First Place Apartments, a 50-unit property of studio, one- and two-bedroom units, that is community connected, transit-oriented and sustained by a suite of amenities, supportive services and sound business principles.

b. Establish the First Place Academy, a two-year residential learning opportunity for 32 students who are transitioning to more independent living and who reside at First Place in year one, and off-campus in year two.

2) Demonstrate success of residents and students through quality of life indicators including health, joy and fulfillment, community engagement and productivity, greater self-sufficiency and independence, and peace of mind for their families.

a. Establish results-oriented, well-documented transition programs for First Place residents and Academy graduates.

b. Collaborate with the Southwest Autism Research & Resource Center (SARRC) and other local and national research partners to conduct longitudinal studies.

c. Demonstrate success of “Resident Fellow” program focused on promising outcomes for graduate students and medical residents and what it means to be a good neighbor.

3) Serve as a site for education, training and thought leadership focused on expanding quality housing options.

a. Represented by a faculty of luminaries from across the country, the First Place Leadership Institute is set to focus on pressing concerns for differently abled individuals at both the local and national levels.

b. Create a location and platform for geographically and programmatically diverse organizations united in their mission of creating more housing choices for individuals with autism and other special abilities.

4) Empower advancements in public policy to support new models based on positive outcomes; respected, evidence-based research; and sound financial frameworks, facilitating the scalability of similar future developments.

a. Advance discussions for national standards of support and clinically informed policy.

b. Research and analyze public policy; coordinate and collaborate with local and national advocates.

c. Develop and host sought after international “Think Tanks” with First Place faculty and other thought leaders.