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City to use $1.8 mil. from topless bar settlement to help build domestic violence shelter

VIP's A Gentlemen's Club 1531 N. Kingsbury  | John H. White~Sun-Times

VIP's A Gentlemen's Club, 1531 N. Kingsbury | John H. White~Sun-Times

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Updated: June 30, 2013 6:45AM

Cash from last year’s legal settlement between Chicago and a topless bar on the North Side will help the city expand its domestic violence shelters for the first time in more than a decade, officials said.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel is expected to announce the $4.2 million shelter construction plans Wednesday. The city will contribute $1.8 million from the settlement with VIP’s A Gentlemen’s Club and donate $500,000 worth of vacant city land, according to a news release.

The shelter will be built through a partnership with Women in Need Growing Stronger in the Chicago Lawn neighborhood on the Southwest Side, officials said. Metropolitan Family Services and the Greater Southwest Development Corp. also are partners.

It would increase the number of available beds in Chicago by almost 36 percent from 112 to 152, and be built with an innovative suite-based design meant to enhance victims’ privacy by allowing just two families to share a unit and a bathroom.

Commissioner Evelyn Diaz, of the city’s department of family and support services, said she expects a coffee or resale shop to be built on its first floor, where victims could find employment. She said there could be up to 10 units of permanent housing.

Diaz also said the mayor was eager to find funding for the shelter and jumped on the VIP’s settlement.

“The minute he knew that this settlement was going to close, he said, ‘We’re going to earmark that money for this shelter,’ ” Diaz said.

The city’s $2.5 million settlement with VIP’s ended a 19-year court battle. City Hall had tried to shut it down on grounds that the club’s dancers expose too much skin.

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