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Residential project for Senior Deaf and Blind Community underway
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Residential project for Senior Deaf and Blind Community underway

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After years of planning, the Senior Deaf and Blind Community broke ground on newly purchased property Friday morning.

City Council approved a contract for sale of the South College Street property earlier this month for a residential project which has been in the works for roughly three years. SDBC leaders hope to have residents moving in within a year, according to board member Sam Avery.

“I’m really happy for the deaf and blind community,” Avery said. “I’m really proud of our general community here in Burke County, especially for the way everyone has worked so hard together.”

The completed project will offer more than 60 one- and two-bedroom apartment homes with monthly rents ranging from $850 to $1,200, as well as several small common spaces, according to brochures. The apartments will feature “adaptive technologies” designed to suit the needs of deaf, blind and deaf-blind tenants, including video and audio visitor identification, visible smoke alarms and motion, floodlight and contact sensors. The project also will incorporate an exercise facility, a community dining and meeting area, a visitor’s lounge, a library and computer area — all with adaptive technologies including closed captioning, Braille transcriptions and looped hearing-aid systems.

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After speeches from SDBC representatives, North Carolina School for the Deaf leaders, sponsors and city officials, project organizers unveiled the new community sign to an enthusiastic audience. Many viewers raised their hands and shook them in the air, signaling applause in sign language.

Finally, SDBC board members and others instrumental in bringing the project to fruition plunged 13 golden shovels into the ground where the building will rise.

“Words cannot express how I feel,” said SDBC board member Sandy Turner. “This has been a dream for so long.”

For Martha Saunders, the first person to ever put down a deposit with plans to live in the community, the groundbreaking was an exciting step toward moving in.

“It’s a wonderful occasion — it’s a dream come true,” she said, as translated from sign language by her son Wallace Saunders. “It’s coming back home.”

This project is the first of its kind in the state, and one of only 13 such facilities in the country, according to a release from the North Carolina School for the Deaf Foundation in Morganton — the Senior Deaf and Blind Community’s parent organization.

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