Ground was broken recently in Alexandria for 12 one-bedroom apartments for mentally retarded adults who have low to moderate incomes.

The apartment complex will be built at 417 East Bellefonte Ave., Alexandria. The project is the first of its kind in Virginia, according to Sheltered Homes. Other agencies have built large group homes, but the apartments are the first in the state of mentally retarded adults able to function on their own with minimum supervision.

The apartments are being built through Sheltered Homes of Alexandria, with Section 8 funds granted to the Virginia Housing Development Authority by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

The cost of the land and construction is $514.000. The mortgage is to be repaid by Sheltered Homes of Alexandria through rent received from residents and rent subsidies provided by Section 8 payments. Construction is scheduled to be completed in October.

The apartments are designed for low to moderate income mentally retarded people over 18 years old who are Alexandria residents. Residents must be employed in a job or sheltered workshop or in school during the day.

Each of the apartments will house one or two adults. A resident counselor will live in the complex to train and assist the residents as needed in such skills as housekeeping, meal planning, cooking, budgeting and interpersonal relationships.