Almost a decade ago Flint’s Coolidge Elementary School closed its door forever, a move that showed the changing reality of the neighborhood.
Dropping attendance coupled with high cost closed that chapter in the neighborhood in 2011, but a new one was written by the non-profit Communities First Inc., which bought the property from the Flint School District in 2015.
Now, the school has been turned into Coolidge Park Apartments, which brings quality housing, retail space and a community center to the area.
The $16.5 million investment, which Communities First help secure, creates a mixed-use, mixed-income facility that will hopefully echo the organization’s previous successes at Oak Street Senior Apartments and Swayze Court Apartments in downtown Flint.
It celebrated the grand opening on Sept. 23
The location’s past and present contribution to the neighborhood comes full circle with Communities First co-founder and President/CEO Glenn Wilson, who was once a student at Coolidge.
“There is so much of our collective history that has been torn down in Flint,” says Wilson. “I’m proud I was a Coolidge Cougar and it brings me great happiness to redevelop this school for my fellow Cougars.”
Wilson is by no means the only one who has fond memories of the school. Many former students, faculty, and other community members have gotten together for a historical preservation project. This ongoing project has taken the form of an online yearbook where those who want to keep the neighborhood’s history alive can share their stories of both the school and the neighborhood.
“Historic preservation is important because once a building is torn down, it can’t be rebuilt the same way,” says Wilson. “People travel all over the world to see old things, and we’ve torn down so much in our community. Preserving and building is critical to the revitalization of this city.”
While he has not recorded his yet, Wilson has vivid memories.
“I remember Mr. Bracy,” says Wilson. “He was an amazing principal and really made an impact on my life. I remember the caring staff and Coolidge being a great school.”
Other memories can be found at https://www.coolidgelegends.com.
Former staff and students gathered together for the grand opening and shared stories in person. All were impressed by the school’s transformation, Wilson says.
That transformation will still affect the lives of kids in Flint thanks to the community center.
“We anticipate for this community center to serve 1,000-2000 kids per year, and I hope that they learn to love Coolidge as much as so many others already do,” he says.
This project is funded by the Michigan State Housing Development Authority, Michigan Economic Development Corporation, C.S. Mott Foundation, City of Flint, American Express Foundation, Hagerman Foundation, Whirlpool, Consumers Energy Foundation and several others.
The apartment complex will have commercial space on the first floor.
Coolidge Park plans to move people in around October or November.
Editor’s Note: For more information on Communities First visit communitiesfirstinc.org
Video footage courtesy of ABC12.