For our clients who are innovating, the research we do in the design phase often needs years to come to the market. This is the case with one of our most rewarding assignments: First Place in Phoenix, Arizona. Working closely with the client, we were able to complete a challenging series of recruiting and research steps: talking with professionals in housing for adults with autism, parents of adults with autism, and the adults themselves. The findings from these focus groups and interviews helped First Place clarify early housing design choices and questions. Today, the community is serving its residents and their families. Please join me in celebrating their achievement.
Case Study: Home Design/Placemaking
First Place® AZ is positioned for a transformational impact on society’s approach to housing and community development for individuals with different abilities. The need is clear: 1 in 59 children are diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). As adults, they age out of supportive benefits and services.
While working with their partners to plan a community for adults with ASD, First Place AZ found that there were few examples of communities with housing that served this audience. They asked Ladley & Associates to conduct consumer research with the following goals:
- Clarify the wants and needs of adults with ASD
- Identify living environments and services that would best address those needs
Ladley & Associates led a series of information-gathering sessions, beginning with a focus group with special needs housing professionals. Next, they led focus groups with parents of adults with ASD, then conducted interviews with the adults themselves.
The research uncovered findings that fundamentally altered the designers’ conceptions. Parents and their adult children were most interested in support for the practical requirements of daily living, and in rental housing rather than something more permanent. Developers drew up new plans with features that included:
- A transition center to provide additional practice in independent living skills
- More employment training
- Opportunities for social interaction in apartment-style living
- Rental rather than for-sale housing
Because of the consumer research done by Ladley & Associates, First Place refined the original vision to better meet their customers’ needs. Executing research early in the design phase saved the development time by adapting to the nuances of this innovative vision. The doors to a $15.4 million mixed-use development opened in July 2018. As of 2020, sixteen residents live in four four-bedroom suites, practicing what they learn in their own apartments.
The nonprofit has received accolades from the Arizona Department of Housing, Arizona State University, the Arizona Cardinals NFL football team, and the international “Hero X House to Home Prize,” sponsored by advocacy association Autism Speaks.
“Ladley & Associates added a valued dimension to our understanding of market demand and issues. Maureen directed market research for an innovative and complex property involving adults with autism and related disorders.”
– Denise D. Resnick, First Place Founder