District to turn shuttered elementary into housing

District to turn shuttered elementary into housing
Posted on 05/31/2022
By Dylan Goetz | [email protected]
MT. MORRIS TWP., MI – Westwood Heights Schools has announced its plans to turn a decades-old elementary school building that is no longer being used into 27 new housing units.

The announcement took place at a news conference inside the Hamady High School library on Friday, May 27.

In partnership with Mt. Morris’ ECO Development Group and the district’s career technical education construction program, the former Gillespie Elementary at 4250 Orgould Street will be turned into a 24,000-square-foot apartment building.
The apartment complex will offer studios and one- or two-bedroom apartments. Early mock-ups also include plans for a gym, event space and courtyard.

In building out the new Gillespie School Apartments, students who work on the project though Westwood Heights’ career technical education program will be able to earn high school and college credits.

The $5 million project is scheduled to begin this fall with a goal of completing it by 2025.

There is a long state certification process that will first have to be completed, ECO Development Group developer Scott DeSilva said.

The project team will be requesting funding contributions from Mt. Morris Township’s ARPA funds and seeking a grant from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation to fully fund the project.

ECO Development Group has pledged a half a million already, DeSilva said.

Developers and school officials hope that this project becomes a model for other shuttered and abandoned schools around Genesee County and the state of Michigan.

School districts in and around the city of Flint have multiple closed schools that are not being used. Closed Flint schools have created a problem for the Flint school district after break-ins and fires continued last summer.

“The goal of the school and our whole team is to create a situation where we make a model for this to happen again and again,” DeSilva said. “Let’s face it. Thirty units is not enough. One school is not enough. The need is much greater.”

Westwood Heights Superintendent Leslie Key said this is a great opportunity for students in the CTE program to get hands-on, real world experience in the construction trades, all while earning school credits.
“We thought it was just a great idea for the community as a whole. We believe as the school grows, so does the community. We just want to give our parents, families and students, most importantly, the opportunity to be successful,” Key said.

Gillespie School was originally built in 1958. It’s a 10-acre site that used to serve kindergarten through fifth grade in the Westwood Heights district that closed in 1985.
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