'Meant to be:' Revitalized Landings office park allows autism center to expand services

May 17—ANDERSON — When Gwen Martin was considering potential locations for the autism behavior center she planned to bring to Anderson in 2017, her husband told her about a building at The Landings office park on Main Street.

Upon seeing it herself, Martin quickly dismissed the possibility.

"I thought, oh my gosh, it's next to water," she recalled. "We can't do that. We have kids on the spectrum."

Additionally, the property was in need of updates. Conduct Curb, Martin's family-centered agency focused on using applied behavior analysis to work with children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, has heightened safety and security requirements for any buildings where it operates.

Martin chose to open a small administrative center and diagnostic clinic on Broadway, but as the agency's client base grew, she revisited the idea of a dedicated space for working with children. In 2020, she took another look at The Landings, which Ed and Judy Lembcke had purchased in 2016.

"I met Ed, and instantly I just kind of knew we were going to work together," Martin said. "It was just meant to be."

In the Lembckes, Martin said, she found more than landlords — she also found partners willing to do whatever was needed to accommodate the needs of her agency.

"I had never worked with someone that was willing to meet me in the middle and say, OK, this is what you need, this is what we can do," Martin said. "They worked with me to make that building...as safe as possible."

Conduct Curb grew quickly into the 6,000-square-foot space in the northernmost building on the property, then within six months, according to Ed Lembcke, the agency occupied the entire 9,000-square-foot building.

Talks soon began about finding additional space for the agency's 65 staff members and nearly 100 clients. A nearly identical building adjacent to the first one was a logical starting point.

Over the next two years, the Lembckes' property management company, EJP Properties, oversaw a nearly $200,000 renovation that will give Martin's agency an additional 3,200 square feet of operating space. The building includes spacious common areas, a kitchen where clients will be able to learn household management skills, office space, a laundry room and other amenities. A 2,500-square-foot basement level space is being remodeled and is expected to be ready by the end of the year. Conduct Curb will be able to lease that level for a year — for $1.

"As our tenants succeed and prosper, EJP succeeds and prospers," Lembcke said. "Any time we can facilitate a tenant overcoming roadblocks to their success — specifically as it relates to their facility expenses — we're increasing the probability of their success, which in turn increases the probability of success for The Landings."

Martin said the symbiotic relationship between Conduct Curb and The Landings is helping the agency give back as it expands its footprint in the community.

"I'm not just here to be a business," she said. "I'm here to serve Anderson. I'm here to serve the community.

"This is a good place for us to provide our services," she added, "but if that secondary gain is, also as we renovate the buildings we're making it more aesthetically pleasing, we're bringing more business over here."

The revitalization of The Landings is also an economic development success story, according to officials who note that, with autism rates having nearly tripled nationally since 2000, amenities meeting those specialized needs are becoming increasingly necessary for cities to attract residents and workers.

"At one point it looked like that property might not make it," said Greg Winkler, executive director of the Anderson Economic Development Department. "They've done a good job of bringing it back. Conduct Curb does great work, and they're a vital community partner, especially for those who have kids that need that type of help and support."

Follow Andy Knight on Twitter @Andrew_J_Knight, or call 765-640-4809.