The Inner City Christian Federation recently completed renovations at the former Eastern Elementary school building, creating a mixed-use space with 50 income-based housing units and nonprofit office space.
The building, originally constructed in 1929, encompasses 62,500 square feet and is four stories at its tallest point. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2014 and was acquired by the Inner City Christian Federation (ICCF) the following year.
“We are excited to see this project come to fruition,” said Ryan VerWys, CEO of ICCF. “Not only does it meet a critical need for more affordable housing, but it is uniquely positioned to serve neighbors with disabilities and create a thriving community close to downtown.”
Emerald Flats contains a gymnasium, indoor bike storage and on-site parking. Several units were designed to accommodate residents with physical disabilities in partnership with Oasis Community of West Michigan.
The building is located immediately next door to the city-operated Eastern Park, which has recently undergone renovations. Park improvements include new ADA-accessible pathways, a new swing set, a new basketball half-court, a new drinking fountain and improved amenities like bench seating, landscaping, a grill and trash receptacles.
David Marquardt, Grand Rapids Parks and Recreation director, said the park — which was deeded to the city in 2012 following the closure of the former Eastern Elementary School — is an important community space in the Highland Park neighborhood.
“Through partnerships with Grand Rapids Public Schools and other local partners, we have successfully transformed this space into something children and families will benefit from for years to come,” Marquardt said.
Eastern Elementary was originally designed to serve students with physical disabilities, with features like extra-wide hallways and doors. It featured physical and occupational therapy in addition to traditional classes and was the first school in the district to utilize bus transportation for students. The elementary school also offered hot lunch at school for students who were unable to walk home.