Faison Center cuts one ribbon, preps another

Kirshner-Mihaloff Hall

The Faison Center’s newly built Kirshner-Mihaloff Hall. (Mike Platania)

A special education school and clinic in western Henrico County wasted little time transitioning between two expansion projects.

Last week, The Faison Center cut the ribbon on a new classroom building, its newly built Kirshner-Mihaloff Hall, then turned around and broke ground on a new community center.

The center, which serves people of all ages with autism through its school, behavioral health clinic and adult and residential services, opened the 18,000-square-foot, three-story classroom building as the latest addition to its campus, located at 1701 Byrd Ave. near Willow Lawn.

President and CEO Brian McCann said Kirshner-Mihaloff Hall will be predominantly classroom space for a variety of programs.

“The first floor is for our life skills program for students ages 15 to 22, where they’re learning life skills out in the community and classroom,” McCann said, describing the program as serving students more severely impacted by autism.

“The other two levels have eight classrooms total for kids ages 5 to 15. It gives us the opportunity to be able to serve an additional 60 students.”

With Kirshner-Mihaloff Hall ready to go, work is set to begin on the Flo and Tony Guzman Community Center, an 11,000-square-foot multipurpose building.

“It’s kind of a conference center with gym capabilities,” McCann said. “It’s a big gym with a basketball court and some meeting rooms.”

McCann (left) was joined by Gov. Ralph Northam for the event. (Mike Platania)

In addition to providing space for physical education, McCann said, the building will serve as event space for conferences and meetings.

Hourigan is the general contractor on the project, Baskervill is the architect and Timmons Group is the engineer.

The Guzman Community Center is scheduled to be completed in February 2019. As that happens, McCann said, work will begin on a clinic for kids from 16 months to 5 years old.

“The reason for doing the clinic next is if you get a kid in young enough for autism, 30 percent of them may not need services after 5 years old. It’s not that it cures autism, but they’re much better off if they get in early,” he said.

McCann said constructing the buildings one at a time was a deliberate choice.

“In all, it’s about a $30 million project. The buildings that we build we’re only doing as we raise the money,” he said. “Everything has been on time and come in on budget.”

With autism diagnoses on the rise, McCann said, The Faison Center has seen more demand for its services, particularly in its school.

“In all of our programs, we’re serving close to 270 children and adults per day, 183 of which are in our two schools,” he said. “With that rise of autism in the school system, that’s why we focused on Kirshner Hall first.”

Once the expansion is completed, McCann said, the center will be able to serve close to 500 students with autism across all of its programs.

In addition to its clinic and school, The Faison Center conducts research in collaboration with Johns Hopkins University and Columbia University. It also provides semi-independent living community for adults with autism.

Established in 1999 as The Faison School, the nonprofit reported $14.5 million in revenue for 2017, according to nonprofit database GuideStar.

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