A new housing development in Victoria is intended to help people with disabilities mingle with others outside of their own group — a change from what was typical years ago, when they would be housed in large institutions with little connection to the outside world.
Cornerstone Village in Victoria will provide homes for residents with disabilities and another group often segregated from their larger communities: older adults.
Bethesda, a Watertown, Wis.,-based nonprofit, is building the $18 million, 52-unit complex of apartments and townhouses for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and for people 55 and older. Residents will live independently in their own apartments but mingle in common areas to socialize, take classes, exercise or practice yoga.
Scheduled to open in late summer of 2020, Cornerstone Village will occupy a site that once housed several dozen people with disabilities in a single building, a model no longer considered appropriate.
“This is a new development on the spectrum of independent living,” said Bethesda CEO Mike Thirtle.
“It’s a very unique community,” said Tom Campbell, vice president of real estate development for Bethesda. “It really does push the envelope in terms of inclusivity.”
The project will get a subsidy from the city of Victoria through a $1.2 million tax-increment financing arrangement.
Dana Hardie, Victoria’s city manager, said more than 100 people attended Cornerstone’s August groundbreaking.
“It was the most well-attended groundbreaking I’ve ever been to,” Hardie said.
Victoria City Council Member Deb McMillan praised the idea.
“I hope it will be as successful as they hope it will be,” she said. “It’s a great integration of that community.”
Amy Hewitt, director of the Institute on Community Integration at the University of Minnesota, holds a different view.
“I love it that it’s in the community and I think it would be a great model — if the people with developmental disabilities were also 55-plus,” said Hewitt, whose organization works to help people with disabilities be involved in their communities.
Younger people, whether or not they have disabilities, often prefer to hang out with people their own age who share their interests, she said.
Cornerstone Village “is certainly a better model than an institution or a large group home, don’t get me wrong,” she said. But she noted that some people with disabilities live independently in regular apartment buildings.
Campbell said having older people occupying the rest of the building helps increase residents’ sense of safety, often a concern for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.