Don Massey's historic Northville mansion to be transformed into inclusive community for adults with autism

Posted at 4:48 PM, Feb 08, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-08 16:48:38-05

NORTHVILLE, Mich. (WXYZ) — The estate of world-famous Cadillac dealer Don Massey in Northville has sold!

We gave you a tour of the $3.5 million property back in 2018 when it hit the market with the Gargaro Group. The property was clearly waiting for just the right buyer, because a non-profit group serving teens and adults with autism closed the deal a few weeks ago. The people at the Living and Learning Enrichment Center believe this space was meant for them.

Built in the 1920s, many trailblazers and world changers have walked the halls of the 6200 square foot mansion. Now, a new generation of world changers is transforming this 14-acre estate into an inclusive community empowering adults with autism to live independently.

"They’ll live in the apartments or condos, and we will help them or support them," says Rachelle Vartanian, the CEO and Founder of Living and Learning.

After teaching special education for 20 years Rachelle Vartanian quit her job to fill a need she experienced first-hand. She didn't want her teenage son with autism to be among the 90 percent of people on the spectrum unemployed. She wanted him to have a hope and a future long after she can no longer care for him.

Five years ago, she started Living and Learning and created programs for teens and adults.

"Parent support groups, music therapy, art therapy Dungeons and Dragons group, gamer clubs," says Vartanian.

There's a Friday and Saturday night hang out program and even a writing club.

24-year-old client Delaney Sheridan loves the writing club.

"It’s really fun! I’m actually writing a sitcom based off 'The Big Bang Theory'. It’s a fan fiction called the 'Physcist of 2A'," says Sheridan.

Beyond just a social club, Vartanian's vision has always been to build a self-sustaining community that can provide job training and jobs, as well as resources and support to empower adults with autism to live independently.

Located on the corner of 8 Mile and Griswold, the property is flanked on three sides by apartments and condos. On the property, a number of micro businesses will be built, including an Alpaca Farm.

"We will take the fur off the alpacas and run them through machines, and we will have the most expensive yarn there is," says Vartanian.

In the property's greenhouse, they plan to grow lavender to make oils and lotions to sell. A doggie daycare will open on another part of the property.

The carriage house which used to be home to Massey's most expensive Cadillacs will be transformed into a therapy space for their clients with more advanced therapy needs.

The three-car heated garage complete with a bathroom will become a wellness center for parents. While their child is at a club meeting, the parent can get a massage or other rejuvenating treatment.

Seeing a future that provides work, purpose and independence for adults with autism is emotional.

"Knowing that these kids, these young adults, that have fallen through the cracks all these years may have a space to fall to... hopefully the rest of the world can see they have so much to offer!" says Ann Marie Evans, the mother of one of the Living and Learning clients.
For clients like Sheridan, the purchase of the Massey estate means a community where she can truly belong. A place where she can learn and grow, build a career and a future.

"It just takes me a little longer, but I tell myself, I’m different not wrong," says Sheridan.

The Living and Learning Enrichment Center hopes to pay off the mortgage on the estate in three years. If you would like to help support their vision or participate as a volunteer or client, check out their website