MUSKEGON, Mich. (WOOD) — A Wisconsin-based developer is hoping to turn an old Muskegon elementary school into affordable apartments.

After it was announced that Nelson Elementary in Muskegon would close, some residents wanted to know what the future of the building would be.

“This school has been a part of the fabric of this neighborhood for decades,” Nelson Neighborhood Improvement Association President Paula Kendra said, “and so people have a lot of memories here and had a lot of good experiences here, and they really didn’t want to see the structure itself go away.”

In October, the city of Muskegon approved rezoning for the property at W. Grand Avenue and 8th Street, paving the way for developer General Capital to potentially turn the school building into a 52-unit apartment complex.

The apartments would be affordable through the Michigan State Housing Development Authority’s Low Income Housing Tax Credit program, open to people making between 30% and 120% of the median area income.

“We have a severe housing shortage within the city and we also have a couple of vacant school buildings which we’re trying to re-use,” Muskegon Planning Director Mike Franzak said.

An assessment that was completed last year found that Muskegon needs nearly 3,000 housing units over the next five years. Kendra said the Nelson neighborhood could especially use housing at all price points.

“We have lots of people that want to move into this neighborhood and a lot of the new construction that’s going on … some of it in the commercial district and by the lakeshore is fairly expensive, and so we want people from all different economic backgrounds to be able to be welcomed here,” Kendra said.

Franzak said if the project at Nelson School moves forward, developers do not plan to completely overhaul the property.

“(The developer is) trying to keep a lot of that natural history from the site and incorporate that into the new development,” he said. “They also plan on keeping the soccer fields there for the community.”

Kendra said the proposed housing opportunity, along with keeping some aspects of the school open for the community, would be a great asset.

“This is going to be a perfect fit for us,” Kendra said.

In the next steps, developers will have to work with the Michigan State Housing Development Authority to be granted the right to redevelop the property. That application is expected to be submitted in December.