BENTON HARBOR, Mich. - Right now dozens of homes in Benton Harbor are being demolished and neighbors are saying ‘It’s about time.’ The demolitions are all thanks to a federal grant Benton Harbor is using to take down the abandoned and vacant homes that litter the city.
The sound of crackling wood and bulldozers fills a quiet neighborhood Monday morning. It's a sound that's becoming more familiar in the city of Benton Harbor. Today it was 139 Kline Street. It's a home that's been sitting abandoned for about as long as anyone on the block can remember. "It's been vacant you know, just sitting there, the kids have been playing in it... I'm glad it's coming down," says Eddie Atkins, who lives across the street.
For eight years Atkins has been thinking that something should be done about it. "Either take it down or fix it up," he says. "But if it can't be fixed up, take it down."
The abandoned home at 139 Kline Street is one of 150 houses being taken down in the city of Benton Harbor by February 2013. The demolitions are all being paid for by the federal government. It's part of the Neighborhood Stabilization Program or N.S.P. 2 grants. More than 200 million in stimulus money is going into Michigan and Benton Harbor is one of the places cashing in.
"I think it's a start. (It's) a really good start," says Summer Smith, she lives across the alley from 139 Kline Street. Smith says she has had to teach her kids to stay away from the three abandoned buildings on her block. "You never know who or what could be going on in those abandoned buildings."
Atkins says it's only a start. "Don't leave that spot vacant. Put something else back there."He says to really fix up the neighborhood; something else needs to fill the empty spots.
All 150 of the properties will go to the city for redevelopment projects. Already, Benton Harbor has heard proposals for new developments on the land. One of the proposals is for 17 new homes near Whirlpool's new downtown campus.