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Stonington family renovating building to provide services for adults with disabilities

Stonington — A local family is spending $2 million to renovate a downtown Pawcatuck building into a three-story facility that will provide a host of supportive services for adults with disabilities.

Alan Sylvestre and his wife, Tanya, outlined their plans Tuesday night to convert a 6,000-square-foot building at the corner of West Broad Street and Lincoln Avenue into a facility that will house Vista Life Innovations of Madison, as well as health service providers and an apartment for two clients on the top floor.

Work is underway and plans are to open this September.

"The building is really our gift to the community," Alan Sylvestre told the Economic Development Commission. "We are really excited about this."

He added that the conversion of the 19th century building at 101 West Broad St. is the beginning of a larger vision to develop two campuses in town that will provide housing and supportive services and an entity that will generate revenue.

"We want Stonington to become the most inclusive community in the country," he said, adding that he has been flooded with offers of assistance from people who want to help make the project become a reality.

The Sylvestres explained to the commission that young and middle-age adults who exceed certain IQ requirements set by the state do not receive assistance to attend programs that could help them become independent. This means they often end up staying at home with their families with few opportunities, which also places great stress on the families. A lack of supportive services, jobs, accessibility, transportation, housing and social opportunities are all challenges for many of these adults, who they said are members of the local community.

But he said having Vista Life, which assists a few hundred clients with facilities, housing and a gift shop in Madison and Westbrook, operating in downtown Pawcatuck will provide assistance in all these areas to adults in the Stonington area.

"If we can establish Vista Life in the community, they will flourish," said Alan Sylvestre, who runs an investment management firm and has been involved in the Vista Life organization.

The family also has created a nonprofit organization called Inclusion A Sylvestre Foundation, which oversees the project and will not charge Vista Life rent for three years to help it get established in the community.

Alan Sylvestre said he is looking at locations in town for future development. The first would house eight to nine people and would open in 2024, while the second, which he said is about a decade off, would provide housing for 24 to 36 people, have an enrichment center and an "economic engine" to generate revenue. He said it would be modeled after Settlers Landing, a Vista Life property in Westbrook that offers housing and supportive services.

j.wojtas@theday.com

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