Bengals player, team legend to build housing for those with disabilities

The Ken Anderson Alliance and a socially conscious development firm, co-owned by Cincinnati Bengals center Ted Karras, have partnered to create a residential community for adults with disabilities.

Through the project, Cincinnati-based KAA hopes to realize its longstanding mission to create an independent living community for its clients. Beyond affordable housing, the agency also plans to offer a series of on-site supportive services for residents, ranging from employment opportunities to social activities, to help ensure their overall quality of life.

The nonprofit’s namesake founder, Bengals legend Ken Anderson, said the project aligns with his organization’s mission to create opportunities for people to live, work and engage. Development will take place with support from Paradigm Construction, co-owned by Karras.

Ken Anderson and Dave Lapham with a guest a charity event.

KAA held a kickoff fundraiser on Jan. 18 at Holy Grail along the riverfront.

“Ken Anderson Alliance was founded to create a community where people with disabilities can live, work and Engage,” said Anderson, a former Pro Bowl quarterback immortalized in the Bengals Ring of Honor at Paycor Stadium. 

“We’ve had a lot of success providing opportunities for individuals with disabilities to work and engage in our community,” he continued. “Now, through this partnership with Ted Karras and Paradigm Construction, we’re going to realize the third component of our mission.”

‘Hats’ off to Ted Karras

The project is made possible with support from Paradigm, a real estate developer in Indiana. Karras, who went to school in Indianapolis, co-owns the business with his friends, Zach Douglas and Rick Michaelis.

Paradigm is in the process of creating the Village of Merici, an affordable housing development in Indianapolis for people with adults with disabilities. It also offers a variety of wrap-around services, coaching and other resources that help residents live independently.

Karras recently won the NFL’s Walter Payton Man of the Year award for his Cincy Hat project, which sells Bengals-inspired Cincy ball caps. All proceeds from the sales of the caps go to support the Village of Merici.

To honor Karras’ win, the league and partner Nationwide are donating up to $35,000 to support the village. Karras hopes his efforts can have a similar impact on the community in Greater Cincinnati.

Ted Karras
(Courtesy: Cincinnati Bengals)

“I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity to help establish independent living for adults with developmental disabilities in Cincinnati by partnering with the Ken Anderson Alliance,” Karras said. “The Village of Merici and KAA share a mission, rooted in love and service, and it is an honor to be a part of such a noble cause.”

Over the past six months, Paradigm has been preparing for a pivot from retail single family and multi-family construction to socially impactful construction, Michaelis said. The construction company’s sole focus for this year is building affordable housing for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

“The prospect of bringing the American Dream to life and providing affordable housing units for adults with developmental disabilities aligns perfectly with our mission and values,” Douglas said. 

A ‘model’ development

Since retiring from football in 1987, Anderson has dedicated the second half of his professional career to serving others. He and his wife, Cristy, started the Ken Anderson Foundation in 2014 to show support for their nephew Drew who has what they describe as a severe form of autism. 

In 2017, the organization merged with Lighthouse Landing and became the Ken Anderson Alliance. At that time, the organization’s mission expanded to include the broader developmental disabilities community.

Rachel Travis works the register at Ken Anderson Alliance’s Just Brew Coffee House and job training site in Silverton.

Today, it provides job support and social opportunities to clients in Butler, Clermont, Hamilton and Warren counties.

“We want to help people live successful, independent lives,” Anderson said.

While KAA has long thought about developing a livable community, it’s struggled with figuring out next steps. However, after watching the success of the Village of Merici, the organization now believes it has a path forward for its not-yet-named project.

Achieving this goal has been a key priority of Moneau Bialon, KAA’s executive director.

“The board of directors has worked meticulously with (KAA Executive Director Moneau Bialon) and her team to create alliances of higher quality to bring Kenny Anderson’s vision to life,” said Peter Hiltz, KAA’s board president. “Aligning with Paradigm Construction is bringing aspirations into reality.”

Next steps 

Beyond KAA’s commitment to creating an affordable and accessible community for their clients, many details about the development are currently a work in progress. Right now, the project team is exploring both the possibility of new construction and the rehabilitation of an existing property or properties, according to Christina Waddle, director of development.

In terms of location, they’re looking all over the region, Waddle said. They want it to be accessible to transportation, jobs and entertainment options, such as movie theaters or shopping. While she noted “anywhere is possible,” Waddle anticipates it being in Southwest Ohio and likely inside the Interstate 275 loop.

One thing for certain is the project will take place in phases. Initially, construction will focus on a clubhouse or activity center. They’ll then gradually add in housing and service components.

Waddle envisions the eventual creation of one of its Just Brew Coffee House concepts or other businesses on campus to give their residents someplace to live close to home.

Ken Anderson Alliance plans to launch a capital campaign in the days ahead.

To help move along, KAA is seeking input to better understand the needs and interests of the community, ranging from needed housing size and desired location to what residents could actually afford to pay for rent. The form is available online. KAA also planned to collect information during the kickoff event at The Banks.

“I am truly grateful to Ted for sharing, with me, a vision for a community where individuals with disabilities feel supported and develop a sense of belonging,” Anderson said.

Ken Anderson Alliance

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