Friends and supporters of The Loveland Center celebrated the realization of a dream Monday, with the public unveiling of the Nancy Detert Residences at Loveland Village.
The first facility of its kind in Florida, the 42-unit apartment complex will provide affordable, independent living for adults with developmental disabilities, many of whom are clients of Loveland's services.
“I'm so close to tears and full of goosebumps right now, when I think of all the number of people who have given to this and the importance of this cause to people with developmental disabilities and their parents and our community,” said Jim Woods, who spearheaded the local fundraising campaign that raised $4.3 million. “It's awesome, I feel so blessed.”
The $12.1 million residential complex was envisioned in 2006 by Carl Penxa, the former president and CEO at Loveland, who retired earlier this year.
“Affordable housing money is really hard to get and affordable housing money for a project nobody's ever seen before is doubly hard to get,” said state Sen. Nancy Detert, who shepherded legislation through the Legislature to allow for an apartment complex such as Loveland Village and secured state funding for its construction.
Penxa's goal is to provide a long-term housing option for developmentally disabled adults who in some cases face homelessness when they outlive their parents.
“This is a drop in the bucket for what needs to be done,” said Penxa, who estimated that in the state some 17,000 people with developmental disabilities are living with parents age 70 and older. “We don't want to see people with developmental disabilities end up homeless.”
Loveland Village is a pilot project, built to Universal Design standards for accessibility. That includes doorways wider than Americans with Disabilities Act standards and wheelchair-accessible showers in every bathroom.
Daniela Koci, president and CEO of Loveland, said the apartments also have appliances with stoves that have burner knobs on the front and refrigerators with freezers on the bottom, so a person in a wheelchair can have better access.
Kris Chynoweth, 35, of North Port, noted all that with approval.
“So far, good,” said Chynoweth, who easily navigated his wheelchair through a one-bedroom and three-bedroom model. “The bathrooms especially, they really did the bathrooms good.”
He had an interview Monday afternoon regarding his application for a one-bedroom apartment.
At least 66 adults with developmental disabilities can live in the complex, which has a mix of one-, two-, three- and four-bedroom units, for an occupancy of 94. By law, 80 percent of those residents must receive services from Loveland, while the other 20 percent can be live-in aides or friends of the program, like Chynoweth.
Rents are capped at 35 percent of a person's income, with the rest of the rent subsidized by HUD Section 8 certificates, obtained in partnership with the Sarasota County Housing Authority.
In the case of Loveland clients — the center serves about 150 people — that income may come from Creative Hearts, a social enterprise selling hand-made jewelry, accessories and one-of-a-kind mosaics.
Or, they could be involved with another Loveland enterprise, the Hearty Kitchen Academy, which will take advantage of a new commercial kitchen in Loveland Village to teach marketable cooking skills and possibly start a Loveland-based catering business.
People will start moving into Loveland Village June 1, Koci said. Loveland recently purchased another eight acres adjacent to its current campus with an eye toward building more residences.
“It shows what a great community can do when there's a need and certainly coming together to make a project great,” Penxa said. “What's even going to be greater is what goes on inside the apartments and inside this whole village.
“People with developmental disabilities can actually live the life they want to live, the life that they choose and be around the people that they want to be around and go out in the community and work and have a great place to live.”
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A dream becomes a village