Community Access Unlimited (CAU) yesterday held a grand opening of its newest property, located on Terrill Road in Fanwood, NJ. The cutting-edge mixed-use property will be home to both people with developmental disabilities and people without disabilities, including low-income units, and two commercial businesses.
The grand opening was attended by Fanwood Mayor Colleen Mahr, Union County Freeholders Bette Jane Kowalski, Alexander Mirabella and Vernell Wright, and representative of TD Bank and Valley National Bank, which helped finance the project through grants.
This is the latest property built by CAU, which is a statewide Elizabeth-based nonprofit providing support programs and services to adults with disabilities as well as youth served under the Department of Children and Families (DCF) to enable them to live independently in the community, in areas including housing, vocational and life-skills training, education, advocacy and recreation.
The property is cutting edge in that it: extends CAU's mission of enabling people with developmental disabilities to fully integrate into the community rather than living in segregated housing; mixes barrier-free affordable housing units for people with developmental disabilities with those available to residents of all incomes; it is an energy-efficient building, featuring ENERGY STAR appliances and heating units, Anderson double-hung windows and sensory thermostats; and improves the aesthetics and property values of the immediate neighborhood, replacing two older homes and an rundown tavern.
"This building has been constructed through a partnership of nonprofit, government and private banking," said Sid Blanchard, CAU's executive director. "It is a model we have used in other towns through Union County, which helps the county. You have a mixture of incomes, uses and types of people. That solidifies a community and adds to its diversity and strength."
Blanchard also noted how supportive the government of Fanwood was throughout the project.
"This is one of the proudest moments as my tenure as mayor, and I'm in my third term," Mahr said. "I believe so deeply in the mission of Community Access Unlimited. No matter where you are, we need integrated housing. This is a wonderful example of a public-private partnership with no public dollars involved."
TD Foundation provided CAU with a $100,000 Housing for Everyone grant for the building. The bank has been a repeat partner with CAU on several of its properties.
"We look for community partners," said Mimi McDonough, vice president, senior commercial lender at TD Bank. "We look for organizations that are doing great things, operating efficiently and filling the needs of the community and CAU meets all those requirements. CAU is a conduit for us. We want to make a difference in the community and CAU is making a difference in the community."
Valley National Bank provided a $50,000 grant for the project. Like TD, Valley National is an ongoing partner with CAU, having recently increased the agency's line of credit from $2.5 million to $7.5 million.
"We have a depth of experience with the nonprofit sector so we have a lot of best practices that were portable to CAU," said Steven Vitale, first vice president, team leader commercial loans at the bank. "These best practices help CAU to grow, both now and in the future. When you combine our best practices with our philanthropic approach, it’s a win-win. Plus, CAU is a phenomenal organization. The fact we can help them grow is a banker's dream."
The three-story, 12-unit mixed-use facility comprises 10 housing units, two commercial units and a 29-space parking lot. There is 10,140 square feet in total space, 1,526 square feet of office space and 8,614 square feet of residential space. A portion of the housing units are reserved for low-income individuals with disabilities and the remainder are available to individuals in the general public. All housing units are fitted with universal, barrier-free designs. The property is in a residential neighborhood, blocks from bus lines, a train station, shopping and medical facilities.
CAU owns more than 250 units of affordable housing throughout Union County, comprising apartments, condos, single-family homes, duplexes and townhouses. Housing is strategically located near major transportation routes, places of employment, shopping and medical offices.
"CAU housing is based on the belief of integrating people with and without disabilities so they may develop a system of natural supports, such as neighbors," Blanchard said. "We also believe in income integration, which is why we offer units to the wider public. This helps the community realize the positive impact of living with people with disabilities and lessens the discrimination CAU members face."
Community Access Unlimited (CAU), celebrating its 36th year of success in 2015, supports people with special needs in achieving real lives in the community. CAU provides support and gives a voice to adults and youth who traditionally have little support and no voice in society. CAU helps people with housing, life skills, employment, money management, socialization and civic activities. CAU also supports opportunities for advocacy through training in assertiveness, decision-making and civil rights. CAU serves more than 5,000 individuals each year. For more information about CAU and its services, contact us by phone at 908.354.3040, online at www.caunj.org or by mail at 80 West Grand Street, Elizabeth, NJ 07202.