MUSKEGON, Mich. (WOOD) — The city of Muskegon is exploring the idea of turning the old Froebel School building into housing.
The building near Jackson Avenue and Wood Street has been vacant for about 20 years and is now owned by the city.
Jake Eckholm, the director of development services, said no plans have been finalized but the goal is to use the property for some type of housing. A developer has proposed renovating the school into about 50 apartments and building an addition that could contain more.
“Over the last several years, we’ve walked several potential redevelopment opportunities through it. It’s been a difficult process mostly because of its construction composition and layout,” Eckholm said.
City leaders say their five-year assessment completed last year showed that the area needs more housing.
“We were taken aback by the numbers. We knew we had a unit gap. We had a lot of infill absorption potential,” Eckholm said. “The total gap (between demand and supply) for all price points between rentals and owner-occupied is 2,996 units over the next five years. To put that in perspective, we have about 14,700 total housing units now, so it’s a very stark need.”
Muskegon held tours Wednesday to give the community an opportunity to see inside and get feedback on what they would like to see in the space.
“We’ve been approached by a nonprofit housing developer that would like to do a low-income housing tax credit development here, which would be for people who are low- to moderate income,” Eckholm said.
Despite the difficulties and cost of redeveloping the building, the city is hopeful a project can help meeting the housing demand.
“Adaptive reuse is not unheard of in these types of buildings. I think the challenge with this specific building is mostly its unique construction composition and then obviously wanting to preserve a lot of the architectural components,” Eckholm said.
If you have comments or suggestions for the property, you can send them to the city’s economic development department. You can also attend a public forum at the site at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday.