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The Cooper House apartment complex, a facility to house the homeless at 411 11th St. N. in Fargo, is moving ahead. David Samson / The Forum

Fargo facility for chronically homeless on schedule for May opening

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Detroit Lakes, 56501
Detroit Lakes Minnesota 511 Washington Avenue 56501

FARGO - Construction on Cooper House, a residential facility for Fargo-Moorhead's chronically homeless, will begin in May and should be completed by January, a Fargo housing official said.

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Also, the city will remodel a building it purchased just south of the Cooper House site to create a business incubator to help new Americans open restaurants, clothing stores and other shops, said Lynn Fundingsland, executive director of Fargo's Housing and Redevelopment Authority.

Fundingsland said Cooper House, 414 11th St. N., will cost $4.2 million. The site once contained a Cooper Tire store.

The city also is working with the Immigrant Development Council to create a local version of Minneapolis' successful ventures Global Market and Mercado Central, which help new Americans start businesses, he said.

"It's aimed at providing these folks a foothold," Fundingsland said.

Fundingsland said the International Market Plaza has a budget of $850,000, but it will cost more. Nonetheless, he said the city plans a June start for construction with completion in December.

Fowzia Adde, executive director of the Immigrant Development Center in Moorhead, said her group hopes to get 16 businesses started in the market when it opens in January. That should create 57 jobs, she said.

"We have people who come (to America) with a lot of talents. They used to be business owners, doctors, lawyers, writers," Adde said.

She said language barriers make it difficult for new immigrants to work through the banking and regulatory hurdles start-up businesses can face.Adde and Fundingsland said about 20 potential entrepreneurs are undergoing training now.

Adde said her group needs to raise more money to cover the costs of completing the market. She can be contacted at the Immigrant Development Center, 810 4th Ave. S. Suite 204, Moorhead, MN 56560, or by phone at (218) 284-8020. The group's Web site is www.idcfm.org.

Finally funded

Cooper House will go up on the site of the old tire building, which was demolished last fall. The project was delayed as a California-based firm worked to sell tax credits to finish the project's financing, Fundingsland said.

Selling tax credits used to be easy for Fargo. The city sold $10 million in the past four years, Fundingsland said. But as the economy tanked, finding firms that wanted the credits (about $2 million for Cooper House) to offset financial gains for tax purposes got tough, he said.

Cooper House is designed to house the "hardest-to-house homeless population," people who have repeatedly gone through rehabilitation, social services and run-ins with police, or who drift from shelter to shelter, Fundingsland said.

"It's really just this cycle we're trying to break," he said.

He said the "housing first" model of Cooper House will bring stability to the lives of its residents. The facility will also offer services to address drug and alcohol addictions or mental health issues, job training and life skills to help residents to eventually be ready to move into their own homes.

"A whole range of services, none of which they can absorb living in a shelter at night and on the street during the day," he said.

Cooper House needs 24-hour security staffing to work, Fundingsland said. He said that so far, funding for those positions has had a roller-coaster ride in the North Dakota Legislature.

The four-story Cooper House is to have 32 efficiency and 11 one-bedroom apartments, with one unit for a caretaker or service provider.

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