New apartment complex helps handicapped
Sometimes, it's about being in the right place at the right time.
And for Annie Friederichs of Alexandria, it was her mom, Barb Friederichs, taking an online class that will probably lead Annie to the freedom she's been looking for.
At the beginning of the month, ground was broken on the new Accessible Space, Inc. apartment complex. Located on 34th Avenue near the Viking Plaza Mall, the apartment complex is designed for "very low-income" adults who are physically and/or developmentally disabled.
Barb Friederichs and her husband, Bob, have three children, two of whom have special needs. If Annie gets into the new apartment complex, her dad said it would be a big opportunity for her to gain the independence she needs.
"Otherwise, it would be a group home for her and she doesn't need that [type of care]," said Bob. He added that the Accessible Space, Inc. (ASI) apartments fit the gap between group homes and total independence.
About three years ago, Barb and Bob, along with several other community members, formed a volunteer group focused on finding a way to develop an affordable and accessible building in Alexandria for area residents with disabilities.
The group knew there was a great need for this type of complex, but didn't exactly know how to go about getting one.
The group members had been exploring options at the same time Barb happened to be taking online classes with someone who happened to work at ASI.
Eventually, the two connected and the rest, Barb and Bob said, is history - sort of.
"This has been a long, ongoing process, but a good learning experience," said Bob. "Our goal as parents was never to own an apartment building, but to just get something for our kids."
ASI is a Minnesota-based non-profit organization whose mission is to provide accessible, affordable, assisted, supportive and independent living opportunities for persons with physical disabilities and brain injuries, as well as seniors.
The group was started back in 1978 and now is a nationwide organization with more than 100 buildings in 27 states.
When the Friederichs contacted ASI, they invited the president and CEO, Steve Vander Schaaf, to Alexandria for a visit.
An open forum meeting was held and Vander Schaaf not only realized the need for one of his buildings in Alexandria, he saw how supportive the community was, said Bob Friederichs.
Jeff Hess from the Alexandria Housing and Redevelopment Authority (HRA) was also contacted. Bob said HRA has been "very generous" toward this project. In fact, he noted that HRA paid the $50,000 needed to get the project up and running.
Funding for the rest of the project came from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
Bob and Barb explained that the project received final approval late last year from HUD and that it made a firm commitment to fund the project. HUD provided $1.8 million for the project, which is estimated to be slightly more than $2 million.
The size of the apartment complex, which will be 14 one-bedroom units and one two-bedroom unit, was determined on the amount of HUD funding available.
If more funding becomes available in the future, Bob said there is a possibility of another ASI complex being built in this area.
He added that there was a suburb in the Twin Cities metro area at the same time looking at the same type of ASI complex, but that ASI chose to come to Alexandria.
"The connection with ASI was a godsend," said Barb. "And they were happy to work with us. I just can't believe this is a reality."
Barb and Bob noted that the "reality" couldn't have happened without the support of a few key players, including Carol and Dave Dittberner, Kathy Werk, Ronna Steffen and Sharon Bridges.
"We all could have walked away from this years ago," said Barb, who is thankful they didn't.
Bob added, "I guess you never can get between a mother who has a goal for her child!"
Although it will be 10 to 12 months before the project is finished and the building is occupied, 18-year-old Annie Friederichs is looking forward to filling out her application - and to living on her own.