School board grants extension on Mary Crapo purchase option

SWARTZ CREEK — By a 4-3 decision, the Swartz Creek Community Schools Board of Education voted to extend the purchase option on Mary Crapo through February 2022.

Communities First, the Flint nonprofit known for resurrecting the former Oak and Coolidge Elementary schools and Swayze Apartments in Flint, has had an option to purchase Mary Crapo for $1 since September of 2018. The school board had already granted two extensions on the option, the most recent set to expire next month.

Communities First proposes to renovate the 92-year-old school, creating 40 one- and two-bedroom apartments for senior citizens age 55 and older, with rent ranging from $343 to $1,100 per month depending on income.

The project comes with a price tag of $7 million to $10 million, and financing hinges on the receipt of state and federal grants to cover about 70 percent of the total cost.

“The application date for what we’re trying to do to fund this development changed due to COVID,” said Mike Wright, development director for Communities First. “Normally, it would be October, but it was pushed back to February.

“We’re requesting an extension on the option until February of 2022, which gives us time to submit the application in February and go through the closing process with investors and lenders, and start construction.”

He said the “best case scenario,” if they receive funding, would be to break ground in late 2021 or early 2022, with construction wrapping up in late 2022.

Wright said Communities First has a “pretty good track record” for securing funding, although they don’t always get approved the first time around.

In fact, the first grant application for Mary Crapo funding was denied, but Wright said they were “on the bubble.”

“This round, we expect to be in the mix,” he said. “We’re confident.”

Essence Wilson, chief strategy officer and cofounder of Communities First, said the nonprofit would not submit a project that wasn’t “highly competitive.”

“That is not in our best interest, either,” she said. “We are a nonprofit organization, entrusted with funds from the community and foundations. If it wasn’t good business, we wouldn’t expend the resources. We wouldn’t have your community be hopeful if we didn’t think it was realistic.”

Wilson said they should know by the end of June whether their grant application was approved or denied.

School board Treasurer Michael Ahearne, and Trustees Chuck Melki and John Sayer voted against the extension, while President Carrie Germain, Vice President Brian Sepanak and Secretary Jessica Lanave supported it before Trustee Alicia Gardner broke the tie with the final vote in favor of the extension.

“I know it will be difficult to find someone else (to purchase and develop the property),” she said.