Emerald Flats earns historic preservation award

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Courtesy Wolverine Building Group

An affordable housing developer in Grand Rapids was recognized for preserving the architectural heritage of a school it turned into housing.

Emerald Flats, a multifamily historic preservation of Eastern Elementary School, recently received the 2022 Michigan Historic Preservation Council Award for Tax Credit Project.

The 63,000-square-foot, four-story building at 811 Emerald Ave. NE in Grand Rapids was constructed in 1929.

Eastern Elementary School provided an accessible way for young students to re-enter school after the polio epidemic. With wider hallways, doorways and ramps, Eastern Elementary was intended to teach students with disabilities alongside all neighborhood children.

Today, Emerald Flats features 50 units, with some designated for adults with disabilities, thanks to a partnership with Oasis Community of West Michigan.

ICCF Community Homes purchased the building in 2015 and led the transformation project. ICCF worked closely with partners such as the Michigan State Housing Development Authority, Michigan Economic Development Corporation and the city of Grand Rapids to gather funding for the nearly $15 million project.

“It was with great intention and ambition that this project was conceived,” said Ryan VerWys, president and CEO of ICCF Community Homes. “We are thankful to receive this award to recognize our community’s commitment to preserving history, honoring diversity and creating equity for all.”

Wolverine Building Group, who served as the general contractor, has won multiple preservation awards in its 83-year commercial construction history.

“It’s important to save these buildings because they tell part of our history,” said Drew Sorenson, project manager for Wolverine. “This historic school spoke to how our community responded to the last epidemic, and as we worked to preserve the structure and transform it into something new during the COVID-19 pandemic, community collaboration remained a priority.”

Emerald Flats also houses Madison North, a church focused on neighborhood engagement.

The Michigan Historic Preservation Council Award for Tax Credit Project is given to an outstanding building preservation project using federal or state tax credit programs.

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