Phoenix apartment complex built for people with autism is first of its kind

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PHOENIX (KSAZ) -- The founder of First Place Arizona says it's the first of its kind in the world.

We're talking about an apartment complex specifically built for people with autism and other disabilities.

And we're not talking about an institution, but a residence designed to help them eventually live independently.

The founder, Denise Resnik says her son was the inspiration behind this idea. He is 27 years old and about to move out of her house for the first time, and into his own apartment complex in October.

Resnik says when her son was diagnosed with autism, she wondered what his future would look like. She was told he would one day have to be institutionalized as an adult.

"Those places were sad, they were depressing. They didn't smell good. People weren't engaged. People didn't look happy," Resnik said.

So she tried to find an alternative and when she couldn't think of one, she decided to take matters into her own hands.

After 20 years of research she finally brought to fruition First Place, which is designed by architects for adults with autism.

"There's things like low voltage LED lighting that's not going to flicker and has nice color temperature. There's durable fixtures and finishes throughout," said Mike Duffy, the AIA Architect Senior Associate.

What makes this place different? Nobody does anything for you, like cooking or cleaning. Instead, there are people who help residents learn those skills.

"These culinary teaching kitchens include four different kitchen areas. These are the same appliances in the apartments so they don't have to relearn how to use the equipment," Resnik said.

It's complete with an Arizona Cardinals game and LEGO room.

"Encouraging people to get out of their rooms and based on shared interest, make friends," Resnik said.

Through the transitional academy, residents like Stuart Kemp learn about how to live independently as well develop career and social skills.

"I learned how to do transportation, get my own groceries, get my own budget in place," Kemp said.

The name, First Place, is really meaningful to what it symbolizes. It's supposed to be a first of many things for these residents. Their first time moving out, first time cooking and first jobs.

Rent for these units don't come cheap starting at $3,600 a month. Most of the costs are paid for by the parents.

However, the goal is for these individuals to eventually move out of his apartment in a few years and to truly live independently in a regular apartment or home.