Old classrooms turned into apartments

Jesse Batson

Jesse Batson

A 1921 downtown building that was a school for over 80 years will now house apartments and offices.

Located across the street from the courthouse, the building is now set to become a combination of 18 business offices and apartments.

Brookings County has already obtained two of the front office spaces, one for the state’s attorney. The offices will be located on the first floor while the apartments will be located on the second.

Formerly known as Brookings High School, Brookings Middle School and, most recently, George S. Michelson Middle School, the 1921 building is one of the historical landmarks in Brookings.

Now in the later stages of its renovations, renters are moving in. Junior Amber Ohm, her sister and her sister’s husband moved in Oct. 1.

As a former student of the school, Ohm, now an industrial management major at SDSU, said that it isn’t too awkward living in her old school building because, “the apartments don’t look like classrooms.”

“It’s kind of cool, because we went to school here, to poke around and see what we can find,” Ohm said.

One of the first things Ohm discovered was the former underground gymnasium, known as “the pit” by its students, was transformed into an underground parking facility.

Vicki Bierschbach, 1921 building manager, enjoys showing the apartments to former students because they reminisce about their experiences in the building.

“They’ll walk in and say ‘I went to school here or I worked here or I taught here,’ and I think they’re a little bit awed by what the people here have accomplished,” Bierschbach said.

Bierschbach believes the combined aspects of the history and the modern technology will appeal to renters.

“It’s unique. It’s not like every other apartment. It isn’t something where I can hand you a floor plan and say, ‘Oh I love it,’ or ‘Oh, I hate it!’ You almost have to come in, take a look and see if it works for you,” Bierschbach said.

Some of the new restorations include new carpet, old-style light fixtures and freshly painted walls.

Another renovation was the library.

“What used to be the library is a big community room,” Ohm said.

The wiring was redone and the plumbing as well, but Bierschbach says that the most impressive feature may be the wooden-framed windows.

The construction crew removed the school windows and replaced it with windows that were three feet wide and nine feet tall, complete with the original brick trim, Ohm said.

In maintaining the historical authenticity of the building, none of the walls could be torn down. As a result, each apartment house is structured differently than the rest.

Due to each apartment having a separate floor plan, the renting costs are dependent on the location in the complex and size.

The 17 two-bedroom apartments run anywhere between $650 and $775 while the single one bedroom apartment runs about $500.

The renting price is what caused Ohm to move in with her sister and her sister’s husband Ohm said and that although she likes the renovations in the building, the most appealing fact for her is that it’s not finished yet.

“Everything’s been pretty cool that we’ve come across and it’s kind of exciting because they really aren’t done yet,’ Ohm said. “There’s a lot of work left to be done on the building.”