J.D. Lewis Construction Management could begin construction on converting the former Elizabeth City Middle School into an apartment complex as early as May, local officials said Wednesday. The company bought the former school building from Pasquotank County last fall for $420,000.

Construction on a proposed new downtown apartment project could start earlier than planned.

Pasquotank commissioners agreed last fall to sell the former Elizabeth City Middle School to J.D. Lewis Construction Management, which plans to convert the former school building and other property at 306 North Road Street into approximately 70 to 80 market-rate apartments.

JDL, which agreed to pay $420,000 for the former middle school, has already developed one high-profile project in Elizabeth City: the Weatherly Lofts project which opened at the corner of Elizabeth and Water streets last March.

County Manager Sparty Hammett told the Elizabeth City-Pasquotank County Economic Development Commission Wednesday that a closing date on the former ECMS project could be moved up by several months.

The county gave JDL a 10-month period of due diligence on the property that runs to the beginning of September. But Hammett said the project is moving along “well” and the developer is now possibly looking at closing on the property in May or June.

JDL Vice President James Flanigan said the company has found structural problems with the two school buildings but they are problems that can be fixed with “time and money.”

“We are excited with where the project is headed right now,” Flanigan said Wednesday. “The structural problems that are present can be addressed. There are definitely some structural issues.’’

Flanigan said construction of the apartment complex could begin a day or two after JDL closes on the property. Before construction can begin, however, the county first has to find new homes for the Boys & Girls Club and the SOULS Feeding Ministry, both of which currently use part of the old school.

“We would not advance the closing at the detriment of any of the parties,” Flanigan said. “We are interested in giving them (the Boys & Girls Club and SOULS) enough time to do that (relocate).’’

The county is exploring several options on places to relocate the Boys & Girls Club and SOULS. Hammett has had discussions with Elizabeth City-Pasquotank Schools about relocating the Boys & Girls Club to a school on a temporary basis until a permanent home is found.

“I will have some better information in the next month or so,” Hammett said. “A place that the Boys & Girls Club nationally is going to now are schools because they are an afterschool program, and that makes a lot of sense. I also have a couple of other options.’’

JDL will seek Historic Tax Credits to help fund its apartment project at the former ECMS building. Flanigan said the company is in the process of applying for those tax credits.

Flanigan and fellow JDL owner Kevin O’Leary converted the former Weatherly Candy Company building into 43 apartments at a cost of almost $6 million. All 43 apartments are currently leased.

Flanigan would not disclose the company’s estimated cost of turning the former middle school into apartments.