After providing in-home care therapy in the area for years, the Minnesota Autism Center is gearing up to open a large treatment facility in Rochester.
Construction started last week to transform the 16,000-square-foot former Charter Communications building at 3380 Northern Valley Place N.E. into an autism treatment center.
It is already accepting enrollment of students ranging in age from 2 to 21. The plan is to open the center on Jan. 31.
Ron Carey, chairman of the statewide nonprofit group, says this new facility is one way the autism center is trying to help children and their families deal with the "explosion" of autism cases.
"This is a good launching place for us outside of the Twin Cities," he says. "The goal is to have centers around the state."
The group already has centers in Minnetonka and Woodbury.
The Rochester center will feature classrooms, a cafeteria, a 3,000-foot gymnasium and a fenced-in, outdoor play area.
It is designed to accommodate more than 30 students
Instruction is offered one-on-one with an instructor for each child in their own individual classroom, explains Kathryn Marshall, Minnesota Autism Center executive director.
She expects the nonprofit's employee numbers to grow to more than 50 from the about 20 staff members who already provide in-home services throughout southeastern Minnesota.
In addition to providing clinical therapy and school preparation services, Carey, who has a child with autism, says the nonprofit also offers support for families trying to cope with autism.
"We're a full-featured service provider, ready to treat the whole family," he says. "Unfortunately, the demand just keeps growing for our services."
The building being changed into the Minnesota Autism Center has been empty since Charter Communications moved into its new complex on Superior Drive Northwest.
Darci Fenske of Paramark Real Estate and Ned Rukavina of Northmarq brokered the deal to bring the Minnesota Autism Center into the Rochester building.