Construction is now underway for LifeTown, a Livingston facility developed by a New Jersey branch of the Friendship Circle organization that will give children, teenagers and young adults with special needs the chance to learn real-world skills in a comfortable setting.

Rabbi Zalman Grossbaum, CEO and founder of the local Friendship Circle operation along with his wife, calls the concept an "indoor city" that will also enlist the help of teen volunteers to bring opportunities to these kids that they would not have otherwise.

"Everybody involved is impacted, both the children and their families, and also the teenagers and their families," Grossbaum said.

Friendship Circle is working with Oneder, a Newark company, to eventually be able to synchronize the LifeTown experience to each participant's Individualized Education Program, and automatically record the child or young adult's progress.

Grossbaum said the overall goal is creating a "truly inclusive" world -- one which will hopefully draw 35,000 people per year, after a planned grand opening around this time in 2017.

"It's really for the whole community," he said. "It's going to be an incubator for integration, for mainstreaming."

For pictures, renderings, and information on the philanthropic and community partners involved in the project, visit

Patrick Lavery anchors and produces newscasts across all dayparts for New Jersey 101.5. Follow him on Twitter @plavery1015 or email