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joshleo

Iroquois School Reuse by GRCS (former Ottawa Hills High School)

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I live near Ottawa Hills and Love walking through that neighborhood. I have been hearing talk about Iroquois school being sold and turned into condos, but nothing official. While walking through the neighborhood this weekend, I saw the property was for sale. I have to say that I am worried that this project could be very good or go very bad.

I think the building is beautiful, and I think the grounds (playground, fields, etc) offer a great element to the community there.

Does anyone have any information about what might happen here?

Wisinski listing:

http://www.wisinski-group.com/wg/property/1501_fisk_se/

Brief history of the school:

http://www.grps.k12.mi.us/boe/history/ottawahist.html

Photos from 1925:

F66F5C4B70464BD6AD20F087DF6E5DD8.jpg

C535B1A90260414A80D3752374CF15DB.jpg

6969FE17DFAD4D829D5466299A794C4E.jpg

893AF9D4919449568C7EB7D8BCC2D087.jpg

Arial View of it today:

2386813289_657b3e26af_o.jpg

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I lived just down the street from there and used the field to illegally let the dog off -leash (when no kids were present in the evenings). It would be a shame to lose that open space.

At the same time, really nice town homes surrounding the block and lofts in the school building would add a nice flavor to the neighborhood.

Whatever they do, I hope it mirrors the great architecture found on all the homes in the area.

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I thought the district had in recent years renovated the school? This is going to be a tough one IMO. The only real options in a residential neighborhood like this would be another school or condos, right? I don

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That is a great neighborhood. I have a friend who grew up across the street from this school. If not a school I would hope condos would do well in this location. Though a neighborhood school probably is still the best use of the building.

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I lived just down the street from there and used the field to illegally let the dog off -leash (when no kids were present in the evenings). It would be a shame to lose that open space.

At the same time, really nice town homes surrounding the block and lofts in the school building would add a nice flavor to the neighborhood.

Whatever they do, I hope it mirrors the great architecture found on all the homes in the area.

Looks like the open space stays regardless. The RFP indicates the parcel is being split, with the open space sold to the city to remain open (city park).

What a neat property...

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My dad attended high school there. My sister and I attended middle school as well as elementary next door.

I dont think condos will work well unless a large chunk of the building comes down and something new could be added on to it to at least make it look contemporary. The inside is as cramped as it looks from the exterior.

Maybe a mixed use business district could develop over a large portion of the property?

Whatever they do, I just hope they save the towers. I've always loved those even though they never allowed students to ever go up to the top.

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I thought the district had in recent years renovated the school? This is going to be a tough one IMO. The only real options in a residential neighborhood like this would be another school or condos, right? I don’t think that there are any private schools looking for space right now, and even with Condo's that's adding a lot of density to this single family middle/upper middle class neighborhood. I don’t know if I would be too pleased about this if I lived in the area.

It's not good news that a nice area like Ottawa Hills can't even support a school. What gives?

One interesting thing I read the other day is that the age group who is most likely to have school-aged kids right now, which is the Gen Xers (born between the mid-60's and mid-70's) is THE smallest demographic group in the country right now. The U.S. demographic is considered an "hour-glass" right now, top being Baby Boomers, bottom being Millennials, Gen Y, middle being Gen X. That probably explains a lot of the school closings (all over the country actually).

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One interesting thing I read the other day is that the age group who is most likely to have school-aged kids right now, which is the Gen Xers (born between the mid-60's and mid-70's) is THE smallest demographic group in the country right now. The U.S. demographic is considered an "hour-glass" right now, top being Baby Boomers, bottom being Millennials, Gen Y, middle being Gen X. That probably explains a lot of the school closings (all over the country actually).

Maybe this is a little off-topic, but if they sell off a property like this. And the demographics are like you say and in 15 years, the Gen Y/Millennials start having children and the population goes back up, where the heck is the district going to build develop a new school?

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Maybe this is a little off-topic, but if they sell off a property like this. And the demographics are like you say and in 15 years, the Gen Y/Millennials start having children and the population goes back up, where the heck is the district going to build develop a new school?

I don't think the schools (urban districts mainly) really have a choice at this point. All they see is massive red ink and dwindling student counts (which cuts their funding from the State and the Feds).

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I don't think the schools (urban districts mainly) really have a choice at this point. All they see is massive red ink and dwindling student counts (which cuts their funding from the State and the Feds).

Yeah, and giving this a little bit more thought, perhaps this will work out for the best. If a developer can re-use the building with a project that's good for the community, the historic infrastructure stays in place.

Then, if (when?) the student counts go back up, the district can build a brand new school that better fits the formula for modern educational practices, rather than trying to retrofit an older building with those kinds of facilities.

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Does anyone know if any group has proposed any plans yet?

I know the GR Christian Schools are looking for a way to deal with school closings/consolidation. They are going to close Oakdale, and have already closed Evergreen School on Eastern/alger. But the words that I have heard about this building is that it would be more expensive to update the building to make it work than it would be to buy and build new somewhere else...

The neighborhood is pretty much one of the best locations in Grand Rapids, so I would imagine that a residential or school use would be prime.

What about something like these new brownstones going in Decatur, GA:

decatur_brownstones.gif

"Brownstones coming to Decatur"

or something like these old ones in Detroit:

Brownstones_on_John_R.jpg

They could take some of the unique architectural elements off of the school building and then put these in the place of it, with a nice courtyard and park.

I think no matter what they do in this location, the neighborhood association will be very picky about details, will that help or hurt?

p.s. My wife and I just bought a house on the corner of Hall and Philadelphia and I am having a hard time finding any history or info about the neighborhoods south of Ottawa Hills, does anyone even know what this area is called?

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When I lived in the 1700 block of Sylvan I always wondered what the neighborhood was called. We were across from the park so we just referred to it as the Mulick Park neighborhood. Although you're not in historic Ottawa Hills, I wonder if your home would still be considered part of that neighborhood...

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When I lived in the 1700 block of Sylvan I always wondered what the neighborhood was called. We were across from the park so we just referred to it as the Mulick Park neighborhood. Although you're not in historic Ottawa Hills, I wonder if your home would still be considered part of that neighborhood...

yeah we are right across from ottawa hills, and it is an "ottawa hills house" in terms of the date built, and attached garage/corner lot requirement. On the City Research Institute website it clasifies us as the "south east end" but that area stretches from the inter sectiomn of eastern and franklin all the way over to burton and plymouth. it contains the fuller avenue neighborhood and the oakdale neighborhood.

I think that the rectangle between sylvan and fuller and between hall and adams are really their own separate neighborhood, not sure how to get that distinction though

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I think that the rectangle between sylvan and fuller and between hall and adams are really their own separate neighborhood, not sure how to get that distinction though

I always thought of that as part of the Eastgate neighborhood, including the area south to Burton and east to the East GR border.

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I love how the building is laid out - and Union Square condos did so well - I don't see why condos in this school would be such a bad idea.

But at the same time other ideas start to run through your head about what this building could become. I mean - the building itself is not located on a major "road" like on Hall St.

I don't think any local hospitals would be willing to expand a campus into this building - they'd probably have to do a lot of renovations which will cost a lot of money.

Does this neighborhood in particular have a community building like Center of the Universe? That could also be an idea.

Could take the track field out and turn it into a dog park and plant some more trees.

It's really hard to decide because you are talking about a huge brick building with a field surrounded by neighborhood houses - and I think you may want to build something that would benefit the neighbors in that area.

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Yeah but they probably want a downtown presence moreso than an old school - but who knows

That piece might be too small for them anyways.

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One interesting thing I read the other day is that the age group who is most likely to have school-aged kids right now, which is the Gen Xers (born between the mid-60's and mid-70's) is THE smallest demographic group in the country right now. The U.S. demographic is considered an "hour-glass" right now, top being Baby Boomers, bottom being Millennials, Gen Y, middle being Gen X. That probably explains a lot of the school closings (all over the country actually).

It might make sense as a conversion to senior living/senior assisted living.

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I hope a section of the land is designated for four legged residents of Ottawa Hills area.

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I hope a section of the land is designated for four legged residents of Ottawa Hills area.

Are there any city-owned-and-operated dog parks in GR?

Seems like there should be.

EGR has none either... so I'm left to be annoyed by dog owners who disregard the leash-laws and let their dogs run around off leash by my little kids at Wealthy Elementary playground. Dog parks should be part of any city... everyone wins.

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I grew up in this neighborhood and went here for elementary school before moving to a different school district. I still have many many fond memories of the elementary school and its teachers. The Ottawa Hills neighborhood is difinitely one of my favorites in Grand Rapids. Reminds me a bit of the Heritage Hill area.

I remember when they added the playground on the East side of the school. It was one of the first around to have a wood jungle gym. After a couple years, they had to take the wood/chain bridge down when a kid got bounced off. I also remember the basketball courts had 10 foot rims, unlike the 11 or 12 you had at MLK park. Needless to say, those rims didn't last long before needing to be replace.

On the parcel of land the city recently purchased used to sit an old storage garage. I suspect this at one time housed track equipment (mats, chalk machine, hurdles, etc.) I don't think they kept mowers there because for as long as I can remember, the grass there never grew. I don't recall ever seeing the custodian, Mr. Johnston, mow the grounds. It was a mixture of crab grass and weeds. He must have had easily 250 keys hanging on his side at all times for that school. Fond memories.

Having been in that school and from what I remember, it's definitely not a project for the faint of heart, although it's probably no different from Union Square and one time. I had a hard time picturing condos because of the lack of walkable services, but then I think of all the places in Kentwood, Cascade, and othe parts of GR. I could see an assistant living facility, but then again, that's quite a bit of work and aren't most of those places single floor structures nowadays?

Either way, I'm looking forward to see what becomes of this place.

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