St. Rita Square Nears Completion
New senior housing complex on Lower East Side appears nearly complete alongside modern version of "Little Pink Church"
Senior housing specialist James A. Tarantino is developing the complex on the site of the former St. Rita Catholic Church. The church will be replaced by a modern recreation of long-since demolished Blessed Virgin of Pompeii Church in the Historic Third Ward.
In 2018 Tarantino acquired and demolished St. Rita of Cascia Church, 1601 N. Cass St., and its former school to create the development site along E. Pleasant St. between N. Van Buren St. and N. Cass St. Tarantino’s Capri Senior Communities will own and operate the market-rate senior living facility, including 72 independent living apartments, 20 assisted-living apartments and 26 memory-care apartments.
In exchange for acquiring the site for $1, Tarantino is constructing a new church and will sell it back to the Archdiocese of Milwaukee for $1. The new church, designed as a homage to the “Little Pink Church” in the Historic Third Ward that was demolished in 1967 for Interstate 794’s construction, will be utilized by the Three Holy Women parish led by Reverend Tim Kitzke.
One of those artifacts, an eight-foot-tall bronze statue of Gabriel, is already visible to passersby. Sculpted in 1904, the year the pink church was constructed, it had been on the top of St. Rita since 1969. It now rests atop its third church.
In February 2018, Tarantino told the City Plan Commission that there were more people interested in residing in the complex, which will have a heated connection to the church, than there are units available. The market is now putting that to the test. Units remain available on the leasing website.
Tarantino’s firm had to acquire more than just the church and former school to create space for the development. In December 2017 an affiliate of Tarantino & Co. paid $660,000 for a home and vacant lot at 1612-1618 N. Van Buren St. In April 2018 Tarantino acquired the former church rectory, then an apartment building, for $700,000. The developer also paid $56,000 for the city to vacate the alley that bisected the site, with the city scheduled to use the funds to construct a new alley access point along N. Cass St.
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