Facility for adults with disabilities receives permit

But funding for apartments in former Harris Bank building, which previously stalled project, remains a question


Ozaukee Press staff

The Village of Grafton Plan Commission last week granted a conditional use permit to Independence Village to build a residential facility for adults with intellectual disabilities, but funding for the project remains a question.

Independence Village was granted a permit last year, but it expired because construction didn’t begin within a year. Construction was delayed due to a lack of funding, and although the organization has raised $1 million the cost of the project is estimated at $7 million, according to Anthony Werth, project manager for Independence Village. Werth said only $1.5 million is needed to acquire the building to get things started.

The residence will be at 101 Falls Rd. in the old Harris Bank. Independence Village has an agreement with the current property owner, but does not officially own the building. The agreement expires in December if Independence Village does not complete the purchase.

There will be 34 residential units spread across the first five floors of the building that will be rented for $600 to $900 a month, Werth said.

According to the permit application, the facility will also have an outdoor patio, community garden beds, salon, game room and storage.

The sixth and seventh floors will remain commercial. Currently, a law office and an appraisal company occupy that space.

Residents will consist of adults with intellectual disabilities that are able to function on their own.

“When people apply to live here, we will send them home with a questionnaire as to their level of functionality,” Werth said. “Can you brush your teeth? Can you wash your clothes? Can you take care of yourself? That kind of stuff. When that comes back, we score that and there’s an assessment process the State of Wisconsin mandates that everybody go through.”

Residents will be supported by a 24/7 concierge who will work the front desk. Additionally, Werth anticipates the development will create more than 30 jobs ranging from the concierge position to lawn care.

The project began eight years ago and Werth considered 13 other locations before finding the Grafton property in November 2019.

“The other properties didn’t meet all the criteria that we put forth as to what we want, like being within walking distance from a food store, employment, social things and some community involvement,” Werth said. “If you’re five miles away from anything, what are you accomplishing? You’re isolating these people, and we want them to be a part of the community.”

Werth said the model is unique considering residents are not limited to how or when they leave the property and can go about their day as they would in any other apartment building. They just have the added resource of the concierge and additional support upon request.

He said he has received international inquiries about his model from people hoping to do something similar overseas.

At the Plan Commission meeting, a Grafton resident raised concerns about how the residence could affect local neighbors, citing elderly residents living nearby.

“People that have autism, do they not have a lack of empathy towards other people?” Grafton resident Cassandra Mammel said. “I’m a little bit leery about having adult men without empathy towards people living in that area.”

Werth was quick to debunk her concerns.

“What you are representing here as somebody who is not empathetic is false,” Werth said. “Many people that have autism, especially the high functioning, are very sensitive to the people around them and they happen to be very good people to be around. They’re very kind.”

Werth hopes to begin construction in spring 2023 and finish in winter.



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Ozaukee Press

Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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