Michael Horne
Plenty of Horne

Let Us Celebrate Saint John’s Third Tower

Ground breaking for third lakefront tower draws crowd of saints and sinners.

By - Apr 16th, 2018 12:08 pm
Saint John's on the Lake Expansion. Rendering by Eppstein Uhen Architects and Blitch Knevel.

Saint John’s on the Lake Expansion. Rendering by Eppstein Uhen Architects and Blitch Knevel.

A groundbreaking event was held on a rainy Friday the 13th for the third, and likely final, tower for Saint John’s on the Lake, which has been located at 1840 N. Prospect Av. since the first tower — soon to be the one in the middle — was constructed in 1979.

The event drew a capacity crowd of nearly 200 to the Cultural Activities Center located in the 22-story, 87-unit south tower, which opened in 2011. Many of the attendees were current residents of Saint John’s, which is celebrating the 150th anniversary of its founding as a home for aged Episcopalian women. The organization, an independent not-for-profit, remains affiliated with the Episcopal Diocese of Milwaukee. It is celebrating its sesquicentennial using the slogan, “Looking Back on 150 Years of Looking Forward.” Any original 1868 resident over the age of 71 would have been born in the administration of George Washington. Today, Baby Boomers born in the Eisenhower administration are eligible to live in the senior housing.

In addition to the current residents, a show of hands indicated that dozens of the attendees were those who planned to move into the new 22-story, $123 million tower which is scheduled for occupancy in Spring 2020. Reservations have been made for all but two of the 79 units planned for the building, according to Renee Anderson, President and CEO of St. John’s Communities, Inc. In January there had been 68 reservations, or more than 75 percent of full occupancy, the quantity required for the construction to begin. Among the newcomers will be former state representative Dennis Conta, long a resident of the Cudahy Tower, who chatted with Mayor Tom Barrett and Ald. Bob Bauman prior to the ceremony.

Anderson told the attendees that “community outreach has been an increasingly large part of our mission.” Accordingly, the new facility will include space for residents and the community. The new tower will include an auditorium, a spa, gathering places and other common space amenities which will connect with the existing facilities. Floors 2-4 will replace the existing 50 skilled care suites and 24 assisted living suites. The fifth floor will have 16 assisted living apartments with living and nursing support. Floors 6-22 of the structure would have independent living suites. The existing skilled care building, dating to 1979, will be razed.

The project received a benediction from Rt. Rev. Steven Andrew Miller, since 2003 the 11th bishop of the diocese, which was founded as the denomination’s first church mission in 1835 by Jackson Kemper, who became the first bishop of the newly formed Diocese of Milwaukee in 1854. The bishop gave thanks to the benefactors of the project “and those that labor. Bless the laborers with skill and dedication,” he prayed.

“Bishop Miller — he represents the saints. I represent the sinners,” said Mayor Barrett in his introductory remarks, following the bishop at the podium. Barrett, who appeared at the invitation of residents Gene and Inez Gilbert, has made numerous appearances at Saint John’s, which is a must-stop on the electoral circuit, since the voter turnout among the well-educated and well-heeled audience is off the charts. The 64-year old mayor commented on the “knowledgeable people” who live at Saint John’s, adding that “every time I come here you get younger and younger. We’re almost peers by now,” he joked.

The mayor was followed by Stephanie Sue Stein, the former Director of the Milwaukee County Department on Aging (MCDA) and current chairman of the board of directors of Saint John’s. Stein brought a prop with her — a ceramic frog. She introduced the frog, and then set it aside to build a little dramatic tension while she made her introductory remarks. Such showmanship comes naturally to Stein, whose mother Eileen Stein [d.2006] was a popular entertainer for decades under the name of “Irish O’Leary.” So what about the frog? “The ‘F’ stands for forgiveness, the ‘R’ stands for remembrance and renewal, the ‘O’ stands for optimism. We will have the best care center imaginable. The ‘G’ stands for gratitude.”

Rocky Marcoux, the Commissioner of the Department of City Development, also made remarks and predicted a good future for the new tower and the facility in general. After all, he said, “the South Tower was an unmitigated success.”

Following the event, the attendees were treated to cake, champagne and non-alcoholic French cider in the MOWA Gallery in the south tower.

VJS Construction Services is the General Contractor. The architectural firms are Blitch Knevel Architects with Milwaukee’s Eppstein Uhen Architects.

Photos from the Event


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3 thoughts on “Plenty of Horne: Let Us Celebrate Saint John’s Third Tower”

  1. Mike says:

    Property tax free living for the wealthy! Wooo!

  2. Phyllis says:

    An interesting point, Mike. If the residents had bought free-standing homes, or even condos in other buildings they would be paying property taxes. Why are they exempt from property taxes when they live in St. John’s? If they can afford those units surely they should be paying their fair share of taxes.

  3. Phyllis says:

    You make an interesting point, Mike. Why should residents of St. John’s be exempt from paying property taxes? Anyone who can afford to purchase an apartment there can afford to pay their fair share of taxes, just as they would have to do if they bought a house or a condo somewhere else.

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