Construction begins on new Sarah Dooley Center home


St. Joseph’s Villa began a new chapter in its 185-year history as we launched construction on the home of our new Sarah Dooley Center for Autism. With the help of Odell architects and contractor Daniel & Company, the 24,000 sq. ft. Dooley School building will be transformed into a state-of-the-art facility that combines pioneering education, therapy, research, training, and community partnership.

The Virginia Department of Education reports that the number of students appearing on the autism spectrum has increased by approximately 12% over the last decade. Redeveloping SDCA will build on the Villa’s partnership with public schools and commitment to helping this growing population successfully integrate with their communities. The new facility is designed to serve as a model for autism-specific classrooms that can be replicated in public school systems with existing resources.

New school amenities will include a space for independent living skills instruction, a medical suite, a sensory library, and an observation area. Construction is anticipated to finish ahead of the 2020-2021 school year.

SDCA front

Ramps will be added to the exterior of the new SDCA to make the building completely accessible.

The Ripple Effect

A new Campus Center housed within SDCA will provide a flexible space to host seminars for public school teachers, parents, pediatricians, and other professionals who work with children with autism. While SDCA will serve up to 96 students at a time, public trainings in a variety of autism-related subjects will have the potential to impact thousands of lives across Virginia.

“We are aiming to attract new community partners and experts in autism to the Greater Richmond region,” said Kathleen Burke Barrett, CEO of St. Joseph’s Villa. “The number of students with an autism diagnosis is rapidly increasing, and we must prepare our schools and communities to educate and welcome them.”


An $8 million project, the redevelopment of SDCA is part of the Villa’s $25 million RiseUP Campaign for programmatic support, campus-wide upgrades, and the Villa’s Endowment. Our campus is our most powerful tool in helping children learn, grow, and heal. Preserving it and improving it through our RiseUP Campaign will raise our capacity for service and innovation to greater heights. With your support, the Villa will continue evolving to meet the community’s emerging, most critical needs.

Stay UPdated!

Go to for all the latest campaign news and to find out how you can get involved! RiseUP with us and leave your mark on a place like no other.

Translate »