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SOLON, Ohio — Seven years ago, with the needs of their children in mind, Ara and Leslie Bagdasarian founded Solon Community Living as a nonprofit organization to create an accessible housing option for the community and sustainable for adults with intellectual disabilities.

On Monday (October 17), Bagdasarians took an important step towards achieving that goal when the city council approved the site plan and 19 variants for Solon Community Living (SCL), at 35100 Aurora Road.

This action gives SCL the opportunity to move forward with the construction of its pocket neighborhood along Clearwater Court, off Portz Parkway, near the Solon Community Center.

“Today is something of a life-changing event for many of us, especially future residents of Solon Community Living,” said Ara Bagdasarian. “We are really proud of what we have been able to accomplish together.

“We believe this unique model of care will be something we will all be proud of, and we are already seeing other cities following Solon’s lead.”

Mayor Ed Kraus said he believes Solon is the first municipality in the United States to create a zoning district for adults with disabilities.

In April 2020, the passage of number 19 created a new zoning district in the city which made this project possible. The multi-family and special needs residential classification is called R-3-C.

“People helping people is the best thing a city can do,” Kraus said. “You could build all the beautiful buildings in the world, but if you don’t take care of each other and if you don’t make sure people with disabilities are cared for and taken care of, then you really have nothing.

“We’ve spent the better part of 2.5 years of intentionally talking and acting on diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging, and now we can say that adults with disabilities belong in Solon,” a- he declared.

To Bagdasarians and other onlookers representing SCL, Kraus said, “I am so proud that you are included in our community forever. It will be a trademark of Solon.

In a press release, Ara Bagdasarian said that with the approval of the final construction plans, “we have reached an important milestone and look forward to starting in mid-2023.”

“We are currently reviewing many family requests and look forward to creating a community that will effectively serve adult children with developmental disabilities, with love, care and compassion,” he said.

On October 11, after holding two public hearings on the matter, the city’s Planning Commission approved the 19 variances and recommended the site plan for approval to council, subject to meeting Engineering Services requirements. and city fire.

The council’s safety and public property and public works committees had also recommended the plan for approval.

The video tells the story

The Bagdasarians – residents of Solon since 1997 – have two adult children with fragile X syndrome, a genetic condition that causes a range of developmental problems, including learning disabilities and cognitive impairment.

“The most important question we continue to ask ourselves – and time is running out – is where will our children live?” Ara Bagdasarian said in a three-minute video that he presented to the council why he and his wife wanted to do the project and what they hope to accomplish with it.

“What will their quality of life be like when we are not there?

Leslie Bagdasarian said in the video that when their children were diagnosed with Fragile X syndrome, she and Ara knew they were “on a long way.”

“We were both getting older and we just decided we had to start looking for housing options for our kids,” she said. “They were getting older too.”

Ara added, “That’s when we started thinking about what a project like Solon Community Living would look like.”

“We were lucky to find this site in Solon which is walkable to a recreation center and a whole host of things – a library, a park, shops, medical care, pharmacies,” he said. he declares.

The district is made up of approximately 8.85 acres of what used to be city property at the southwest corner of Aurora Road and Portz Parkway.

Since the passage of the zoning amendment in 2020, Ara Bagdasarian has worked with city officials to determine SCL’s footprint and to determine how much newly zoned land the nonprofit should acquire and the acquisition process.

Last November, the council accepted SCL’s offer of $300,000 to purchase an approximately 3.7-acre parcel of this land so that the housing project could be developed on the site.

“Now we are engaging with families because we can see the light at the end of the tunnel,” Ara Bagdasarian said in the video.

“We’ve come a long way when it comes to our fundraising for families, but we’re going to need a little help from others, which we hope will then have an impact on the lives of the families. people of Solon Community Living and will also set an example for others. across the state and maybe even across the country.

Leslie Bagdasarian added: “We have to get it right, because we are living it.”

This architectural rendering shows what the Solon Community Living housing project could look like along Clearwater Court, off Portz Parkway. (Photo courtesy of RDL Architectes)

Plans include caregiver suites

According to a press release from SCL, final plans include a six-home neighborhood with ADA-compliant private suites for 14 people. The suites include an open-concept living room and kitchen, accessible bathrooms, bedrooms, laundry rooms and a porch, the statement said.

In addition, a community pavilion will be built with an educational kitchen, a library/sensory space, gathering spaces and an outdoor terrace.

“SCL’s unique Pocket Neighborhood design will provide every resident with walkable access to the community so they can live, work, socialize and thrive safely with the support they need,” Ara Bagdasarian said in the press release.

The neighborhood will also offer six suites for caregivers on the second floor of the houses. Having caregivers on the property will solve “the current caregiver crisis” by providing a better work experience for staff, improving care and providing an extra layer of safety and security for residents, the statement said.

“It’s a very innovative approach in adding these caregiver suites,” said Ara Bagdasarian. “It added to the cost, but we know what we are doing is going to be successful.”

RDL Architects of Shaker Heights is designing the project.

Ara Bagdasarian thanked a number of people who were instrumental in the project, including Gary Biales, an SCL board member who volunteered to help move the process forward as an advisor. Biales is Vice President of Development for Omni Senior Living at Solon.

He also expressed his gratitude to Kraus, General Counsel Thomas Lobe, Public Works Commissioner William Drsek, other city staff and council members for their help and guidance.

“We couldn’t have done it without 83% of Solon voters (who voted to approve the zoning issue in 2020), both in the city (as a whole) and in Ward 6,” said he declared. “What does this say about Solon’s heart and soul?”

Vice Mayor and Ward 5 Councilwoman Nancy Meany said council’s approval of SCL’s site plan means a lot to her.

“I’m really proud of our city and our people, who have seen what an important community this will be, not only for Solon, but (also) for the region, for the state and for the country,” said- she declared.

“Ara and Leslie, I wish you nothing but the best. I think it will be such a gem, and I am delighted to welcome you to this community. »

Kraus added, “It’s going to be a really nice project, and I think as we go up and down Aurora Road, we’ll all be proud to say that all of these people who live there are part of our community.”

Bagdasarian said SCL had received requests for about half of its 14 units. The fundraising campaign is underway and around 70% of the necessary funds have been raised, he said.

A limited number of openings for residents are still available. For more information about SCL, visit soloncommunityliving.org.

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