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  • Writer's pictureLaurie Frappier

Closing in on completion of PAH! Hiland Plaza!

nearly completed apartment building
woman in hard hat on roof of building with mountains in background

The Greater Albuquerque Housing Partnership’s newest apartment community is nearing completion and leasing is underway for this 92-unit development located at 5000 Central SE in Albuquerque’s Highland Business District and neighborhood just east of Nob Hill. PAH! Hiland Plaza is Albuquerque’s only apartment community with a preference for Deaf, DeafBlind, and Hard of Hearing residents. GAHP partnered with the Deaf Culture Center of New Mexico (DCCNM) to design this unique community and PAH! will be the home of DCCNM’s offices and event space. We met with Kelle Senyé, GAHP’s deputy director of operations, to talk about this unique community.

How did the partnership with DCCNM come about?

The Deaf Culture Center had a long-time goal – over 20 years - a dream really, of having a place for members of the Deaf, DeafBlind, and Hard of Hearing communities to connect and live together with the conveniences often taken for granted by members of the hearing community. We here at GAHP had been developing Hiland Plaza and thought it might be the right fit for them. We started meeting weekly with members of the DCCNM, consulted with a Deaf architect, and created the design for what is now called PAH! Hiland Plaza.

Illustrated hands signaling the word "PAH!"
ASL sign for PAH!

Why did you add PAH! to the name?

“PAH!” comes from an expression in American Sign Language meaning “Success!” or “Finally!” The DCCNM members chose the name to honor the long process and sense of joy that arose when we were all finally able to make this dream a reality for the Deaf community.

Why is there a need for apartments for the Deaf community?

So many reasons. First is the issue of access. The Deaf community has historically encountered many barriers to finding housing, typically because potential renting entities do not have the tools or inclination to accommodate the needs of the Deaf, DeafBlind, and Hard of Hearing. While discrimination is prohibited by the Fair Housing Act and while there have been many gains, it is rare to find housing providers that fully understand the communication needs of the Deaf community.

Second, and probably most important, is about community. Too many Deaf and Hard of Hearing individuals and families are isolated from their neighbors simply because of communication barriers. This can cause serious cases of loneliness and disengagement from the larger community. Having the opportunity to live among others who communicate in ASL, who share their language and culture, is essential to the overall well-being of a community that is often misunderstood and discriminated against.

What special features had to be included in an apartment community for the Deaf community?

Part of the design process was consulting with the DCCNM and the architects to include the features needed to accommodate the Deaf community. We started by ensuring that we have staff fluent in ASL. The safety features include a videophone secured entry, visual alerting fire alarms and doorbells in all apartments, T-coil compatible induction loop in select locations, additional power and data outlets for videophones and bed shakers, minimal visual barriers, and lighting and paint colors selected to minimize glare and resulting eye stress. In addition, the Deaf Culture Center will have its offices and event space on the first floor that will provide classes and social events as well as space for their partners to provide additional services. They are also looking to create a Deaf-owned on-site coffee shop as part of a Deaf Entrepreneurial Program that will provide career development skills and business education.

Above: The DCCNM have been an integral part of the planning and design for PAH!

Do you have to be deaf to live at PAH! Hiland?

While there is a renting preference for the Deaf, DeafBlind, and Hard of Hearing, you do not need to be deaf to live at PAH! The renting preference means that, all things being equal and if there is a unit available, the deaf individual or family (at least one family member is deaf) will have first access to the available unit.

Are there any other qualifications needed to live at PAH!?

PAH! Hiland Plaza is a Low-Income Housing Tax Credit property, and we have income limits for all renters. We serve residents with incomes from 30% - 80% AMI.

Do you have to be deaf to work at PAH! Hiland?

We would really love to have a staff that fully represents the Deaf community. We do ask that employees be able to communicate in ASL.

newly paved parking lot behind buillding
Paved parking area off of Jackson St. and Silver Ave.

Are there still units available? When can people expect to start moving in?

PAH! is currently about 2/3 leased, with many potential applicants still undergoing the qualification process. We are still accepting applications! Our initial move-ins are slated for September.

Will there be a grand opening? When?

There will absolutely be a celebration to mark the grand opening. We would like to get as many people moved in as possible before scheduling but we anticipate an October ribbon cutting/grand opening.

Is PAH! a safe place to live?

GAHP does as much as possible to provide for the safety of our residents. The secured video entry is one feature of our apartments that will enhance the security of the community. In addition, we have controlled access to the building and parking, security cameras, and a security company to patrol the area.

Why is PAH important to this neighborhood?

apartment building with bus in front
The ART Bus goes right by PAH! Hiland

GAHP is committed to neighborhood revitalization. We envision PAH! Hiland Plaza to be a catalyst for revitalization in the Highland Business District where growing families can support local businesses, live sustainably, have access to jobs, schools, and public transportation, and enjoy great restaurants and entertainment. It is just beautiful and provides the community with 92 high quality homes that will keep young families within this highly desirable, vibrant, walkable, and diverse neighborhood.

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