Empire Station Apartments in Benton Harbor started out in the 1930's as a fire station and has gone through many incarnations over the years, ice company, boxing facility, and ambulance company among them.
Now it will be housing for formerly chronically homeless individuals in a setting where they can get services they need to stabilize their lives.
Beyond that, its developers hope its high profile location on Empire Avenue and the renovation itself will stimulate a general sprucing up of the surrounding area.
The building, which had been abandoned for many years and reduced primarily to a shell, open to the elements and vandalism, has been completely renovated to create six, one-bedroom apartments.
Though the project is not LEED certified
because of the expense that would have added, its construction did follow LEED guidelines and the apartments are highly energy efficient.
Work began on the project Jan. 16 and was completed Nov. 1. Although the contruction itself went quickly plans for the building owned by Corernstone were many years in the making largely because, until the right plan for the buidling was hit upon, it was somewhat out of place in a residential neighborhood.
The project came in just under $1 million -- at $953,978 -- and received funding through the federal Neighborhood Stabilization progam of American Recovery and and Reinvestment Act, a program designed to stabilize communities hurt by foreclosed and abandoned properties.
Berrien County and the City of Benton Harbor received a total of $14 million for NSP2
projects, which included the Empire Station Apartments. Those funds have been used for projects like demolition of homes throughout the city. The project competed with 56 others nationwide and received the largest grant in Michigan.
Contractor for Empire Station Apartments portion of the project was CPM Construction of St. Joseph and Cornerstone Alliance served as the developer. Partners in the project include the City of Benton Harbor, Berrien County, Michigan State Housing Development Authority
), Cornerstone Alliance
, and Emergency Shelter Services.
At least 30 to 45 construction workers were coming and going at the site as work was being done, says Marshall Downs, Lead Project Manager for the project. Hiring local workers was required in order to obtain federal funds for the project.
From a larger perspective, Downs says, the Empire Station Apartments project is one of a number of high profile projects that can be seen across Benton Harbor -- the first and second phase of the Whirlpool project, the new Boys and Girls Club, and Harbor Shores all are contributing to a new excitement about the possibilities in the area.
"Within a five mile stretch in Benton Harbor we have so much going on," Downs says.
Writer: Kathy Jennings, Second Wave Media
Source: Marshall Downs, Cornerstone Alliance