Mountainlands Housing and Bridge 21 have announced a housing collaboration in Park City for those who are neurodiverse.

Significant housing collaboration in Park City announced

Park City— Two local non-profits have joined forces to provide much-needed housing for the underserved, young adult members of Park City’s neurodiverse population. The fact that these two non-profits have come together is a wonderful tale of well-timed coincidences.  

Pat Matheson, Executive Director of Mountainlands Community Housing Trust, became aware of the need for neurodiverse housing options in 2017by meeting with parents of neurodiverse children at Park  City’s renowned National Ability Center, including Liza Howell, Wes Stout, Stephanie Polukof. In early  2020, these and other parents formed a new nonprofit organization called Bridge21, whose goal is to create affordable housing options for neurodiverse adults, whether they be on the autism spectrum,  suffering from traumatic brain injuries, or who face other neurodiverse challenges. The founders of  Bridge21 wanted to explore providing housing options for their young adults to live independently since research has shown that doing so has a positive effect. One father repeatedly says that “I never thought  my son would be able to cross the street alone and now with independent living as a young adult he has  achieved an incredible life because he does not live at home with us.” Pat was very intrigued and  “tucked their needs away in my brain, knowing there had to be something we could do to help them; I  felt they were being underserved in our community” 

Fast forward to 2022. Deb Hartley was named as Executive Director of Bridge21 Park City in March and,  as a long-time local and Realtor® who has always focused on giving back to the community, she knew collaboration would be critical to their success. Deb had co-founded the enormously successful Park City  Turkey Drive at the Park City Board of Realtors® to “Give Hunger the Bird” and ran that program for 20  years, during which time they fed over 400,000 people complete meals each Thanksgiving. Deb and Pat connected in 2021, while Deb was serving as a Bridge 21 Board member, to explore partnership opportunities. The timing was serendipitous.  

Mountainlands has owned the adjacent properties of Holiday Village and Parkside Apartments since  2000 and 2005, respectively, and in addition to proving below-market rents in an extremely desirable location literally a block from both Park City High and Treasure Mountain Middle Schools, the apartments include a significant population of families or individuals with developmental disabilities. The properties are prime for redevelopment, having been built about 40 years ago and this joint effort has escalated this redevelopment to the top of Mountainland’s priority list. A collaboration made perfect sense, and now the two organizations are working together to create a co-housing community and campus for the adult neurodiverse population within a portion of the new redevelopment plan. The site’s location will serve Bridge21’s needs perfectly. 

“What’s so exciting to us is we couldn’t have dreamt of a better location for our young adults,” comments Hartley. “We require that our residents be employed full-time and wanted housing that is close to the free public bus, so they can independently get to their jobs. We also wanted a location that would allow us to create more of a campus feel, allowing for common spaces for events and programs to operate, as well as room for the resident supervisors to live. While we had envisioned securing some existing real estate rental opportunities, our ability to be in on the ground floor of the design of the community is beyond our wildest dreams.” noted Hartley. “We couldn’t have envisioned a  better opportunity and are grateful beyond measure to Mountainlands.”  

Currently, there is a total of 122 apartments among the two projects. Matheson explains how phasing will work. “Avoiding tenant relocation during construction to the greatest extent possible is a critical priority for us. We aim to build new buildings for our existing tenants by building the first building in one of the open spaces on the property and then building the next building(s) where the vacated buildings currently stand. We plan to do this in phases, one building at a time to have a minimal impact on our  residents.”  

While architects and planners have already been engaged to help with the redesign, there is much work to do to bring this to fruition, the most significant of which is the capital campaign to fund the project.  “The greatest opportunities with these forty-year-old projects are their ideal locations, the monthly rental assistance available to most tenants, 100 percent ownership by Mountainlands, and space on the site for phased redevelopment. The most significant challenge in the redevelopment will be restructuring existing financing to maintain affordability benefits for tenants. In partnership with Bridge21, Utah Housing Corporation, lenders, and other community partners, we are confident we will be able to raise the funds  to offset high development costs and create a win-win redevelopment solution.” Matheson explains. 

In terms of timing, Mountainlands and Bridge21 hope to be ready to formally submit a redevelopment plan to the Park City Planning Commission by this fall. “We’ve had many conversations with folks at the  City, lenders, donors, neighbors, and other community-focused organizations but nothing has been formalized” Pat explains. “We want to make sure any submittal to the Planning Commission is as complete as possible, and it is going to be an iterative process to get all the details sorted out. It’s so  important that we maintain fluid working relations with our partners at City Hall, as they do so much to  support our Mission.” Pat concluded. 

Hartley adds, “Ideally, we would begin construction on our new co-housing campus about a year from now, with occupancy planned for 2024. That would put us well ahead of my personal goal of  securing our co-housing opportunity within my first five years with Bridge21.”