- Associated Press - Monday, July 20, 2015

FREMONT, Mich. (AP) - Shirley Hooker likes to say she’s living in her old home economics classroom - and in fact, she is.

Hooker is among the first residents of The Gateway Apartments complex, which is the reincarnation of the old Fremont High School. Hooker graduated from Fremont in 1952, when the old school on East Main Street was the only one in town.

That means it was the only school Hooker attended, from kindergarten through 12th grade, The Muskegon Chronicle (https://bit.ly/1DcQafy ) reported.

“I went for a walk down the hall last night and saw my old kindergarten room,” Hooker said recently. “That was very strange.”

She settled into her new apartment last month after selling her home in Dayton Township, where she had lived for 23 years. The former supervisor of Dayton Township, Hooker knew it was time for a change - and The Gateway offered a unique opportunity to live close to downtown Fremont, where she has spent her entire 81 years.

Originally built in 1926, the big brick building served as the community’s only school, and then just its high school until 2012, when a new high school opened. Hooker said her mother even attended the old school.

“The building was in continuous use as a school for 86 years,” said Shannon Morgan, senior vice president of Home Renewal Systems. “That means that everyone in Fremont born between 1910 and 1996 who went to public school attended classes in this building.”

Home Renewal Systems of Farmington Hills, which purchased the building in 2012, used federal tax credits and a $450,000 Michigan State House Development Authority Grant to transform the old school into 38 apartments. The total investment was $13 million.

The studio, one-bedroom and two-bedroom apartments are reserved for tenants 55 and older. Most of them are subsidized, while the six remaining units are market rate.

The developer preserved much of the historic charm, including original built-in cabinets, but also incorporated such high-tech features, such as geothermal heating and air conditioning.

Apartments have 8-foot windows and ceilings as high as 12 feet. Hooker said she’s grateful the windows were restored to their original size; the school district reduced their size to save on energy costs.

“I have huge windows that look out on the courtyard,” she said. “That courtyard was there when I went to school, but then it was closed in for classrooms. Gateway opened it back up as a courtyard and there are beautiful flowers and benches and tables.”

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Information from: The Muskegon Chronicle, https://www.mlive.com/muskegon

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