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Fire station turning into women's shelter

BENTON HARBOR, Mich. - Contracts were signed to turn a 90-year-old fire station into a women's shelter in Benton Harbor. It’s all being paid for by a Neighborhood Stabilization Program grant. The money is a $14 million in stimulus from the federal government.

The old Benton Harbor Fire Department fire house has sat on the 300 block of Empire Avenue. “We call it fire station 372,” said Marshall Downs, the site's project manager. According to Downs the station was built in 1920 but has been without fire fighters since the 1970s.
Within a year the building will be gutted, renovated, and home to six homeless women. There will be three one-bedroom apartments on each floor of the station. Emergency Shelter Services in Benton Harbor will run the building.
Downs says the structure is about as solid as they come. “This building was built to last. You see an eight to ten inch wall here. You don’t find that in normal construction,” he said. “The way it lays out it’s perfect for a multi-family unit,” said Wendy Dant-Chesser with Cornerstone Alliance.
Cornerstone bought the building five years ago. There were always plans to renovate the building for neighborhood improvement programs. Dant-Chesser says they couldn't resist this opportunity to develop the spot. “That plan has always been in the books. It’s helpful to have the city to partner with the NSP-2 dollars," she said.
Benton Harbor has $7 million to spend for improvement projects along with another $7 million designated for tearing down vacant and abandoned properties.
Construction on the building is scheduled to be complete in the early summer of 2012.

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