Jeramey Jannene
Eyes on Milwaukee

Mount Mary, Partners Hold Groundbreaking for Trinity Woods

Seniors, students, religious sisters and children will all live under same roof.

By - Sep 3rd, 2020 03:23 pm
Trinity Woods from the west. Rendering from Plunkett Raysich Architects

Trinity Woods from the west. Rendering from Plunkett Raysich Architects

A trinity of partners gathered Thursday to break ground on Trinity Woods, an intergenerational housing complex.

“It’s unlike anything anywhere else in the country in that it will bring seniors, students, religious sisters and children together in a vibrant facility,” said Mount Mary University president Christine Pharr.

The $45 million complex will provide housing for the sisters of the School Sisters of Notre Dame, including assisted living units, as well as housing for single mothers attending the university and their children. An early childhood education center is also planned for the complex, available to residents, staff and the community.

The development, expected to be completed in fall 2021, will be known as Trinity Woods, a reference to the adjacent, 10-acre woods, the Catholic faith’s holy trinity, and the project’s three partners – Mount Mary, the School Sisters of Notre Dame and Milwaukee Catholic Home.

The School Sisters of Notre Dame will vacate their Elm Grove facility, one that is “too large for our needs and too expensive to maintain,” said Sister Debra Sciano, provincial leader for the School Sisters of Notre Dame Central Pacific Providence.

The university is building the development on the north side of its 80-acre campus, located at the southwest corner of N. 92nd St. and W. Burleigh St.

Area Alderwoman Nikiya Dodd praised the university’s commitment to the city. “Change is hard, change is necessary, we have got to change,” she said.

Mayor Tom Barrett was effusive in his praise for the project partners. “If you want to have something done well, have a woman do it. If you want to have something done spectacularly, have two women do it,” said Barrett, repeating a line he used to describe the Sherman Phoenix development. “I think that’s true here.”

He said, as Mayor, he’s always happy when people bring the city a project for which they already own the land and aren’t asking for public financing. The project also did not require a zoning change.

“For me, having the 24 units for the young women and children really puts an exclamation point on your mission,” he said.

Plans call for 52 assisted-living units for sisters who require care, 90 one-bedroom and two-bedroom apartments for sisters and other seniors, and 24 family-units for undergraduate single mothers and their children.

A three-story “town hall” building, with a gathering space, health clinic, salon and bistro would link the various housing wings. Various amenities in the town hall portion would be open to university students and staff.

Senior Housing Partners, based in Roseville, Minn., is serving as the developer for the partners. Milwaukee-based Plunkett Raysich Architects is leading the design, while VJS Construction Services is leading the general contracting.

The university, through a contractor, cleared the site of approximately 300 trees in July. It reports that 255 were “non-native Scotch pine trees that were diseased and reaching their end of life.” The pine trees will be transported to a paper mill to be “repurposed,” while boards from the hardwood trees will be integrated into the building’s interior.

Northland Securities, First Business Bank and the Wisconsin Health and Education Facilities Authority (WHEFA) are providing financing for the project.

Milwaukee Catholic Home, which manages the Elm Grove property for the sisters, will manage the order’s portion of the new complex. Artifacts from the current complex will be incorporated into the new development.

One hundred sisters currently live in Elm Grove with an additional 100 spread throughout the Milwaukee area. The international organization has over 3,000 members.

The Mandel Group is planning to redevelop the sisters’ existing home.

“We are thrilled to welcome the School Sisters of Notre Dame back to our campus, a place where many of them graduated or taught previously,” said Pharr.

The university was founded as a ministry of the School Sisters in 1913 and moved to its 80-acre home in Milwaukee in 1929.

Mount Mary University has 1,349 students, including 726 female undergraduate and 623 co-ed graduate students, according to its website.

The project was first announced in December 2019, but Pharr said the idea goes back to her 2017 arrival on campus and a discussion with Sciano.

Early August Photos

December 2019 Photos

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