Commission hits brakes on proposal for St. Mary's
Tables Capri Community's plans to redevelop into senior living facility

By Brandon Anderegg

June 14, 2019

The premier building filled with independent living units would be located just off
West Wisconsin Avenue facing the lake.

Submitted rendering

PEWAUKEE — The Plan Commission voted unanimously to table Capri Community’s plans to redevelop St. Mary’s Church after nearly two hours of public comments at a Thursday night meeting. Queen of Apostles Church, which owns St. Mary’s Church, has an offer to sell the 449 W. Wisconsin Avenue property to Capri Communities. The approximately $35.5 million project would transform the 16-acre parcel into a senior living facility for people ages 55 and older.

Capri sought an amendment to Pewaukee’s land use plan to change multiple areas within the property from the single-family residential to the institutional designation. The developer also requested those properties be rezoned from single-family residential to institutional. A certified survey map was submitted requesting select properties be consolidated as well.

 Plan commissioners struggled to reach a verdict on Capri’s request to amend Pewaukee’s land use plan after village staff raised questions on how the development would impact the village’s infrastructure. The subsequent discussion between commissioners pertained to how the development would impact stormwater systems, roads and utilities in the village.

“Looking more so at the village engineer’s concerns, until we know what’s going on there, I have major concerns with stormwater, traffic and everything else,” said Commissioner Jim Grabowski.

Site plan

Capri’s plans indicate the church and school would be torn down to make way for 147 independent living apartments spread across four buildings that would be three-and four-stories tall. There would also be 13 single-story duplex cottages as well as 26 memory care units located in a single-story building, according to the site plan.

However, portions of St. Mary’s Church, including the front facade and steeple, will be implemented in the church memorial design. Constructed using materials from St. Mary’s Church, the memorial church would be an open air, four-wall structure.

The entrance to the site is on High Street with two more entrances to the development on West Wisconsin Avenue, according to the site plan. The developers would break ground on the project by early 2020 with the development completed by 2022.

The church memorial would be located just northeast of where St. Mary’s Church is located now and just east of the cemetery on the property. The cemetery would become enclosed by ornate fencing and improved with landscaping, said Jim Tarantino, founder and principal of Capri Communities. The memorial church and garden would be open to the public, he added.

“The origin of what we’re trying to do is continue the church building itself as a place of prayer and entry point to the cemetery where people can gather, pray and hopefully find some peace,” Tarantino told a Freeman reporter in a previous interview.

 Town of Delafield resident Diann Wick and Hartland resident Darlene Kelly wave “Save St. Mary’s Church” signs at cars as they pass through the Main Street and Meadowbrook Road intersection.
Brandon Anderegg/Freeman Staff

Residents weigh in

Residents who are opposed to the project have attended every single meeting since January to express their concerns with the development and Thursday night’s meeting was no exception.

Multiple residents called the development “inharmonious” within the context of single-family home neighborhood surrounding the property and cited an increase in traffic and devaluation of properties as major concerns.

“A high-density development in a low-density neighborhood is not compatible,” Darlene Kelly said. “It will change the fabric of the neighborhood and the community.”

However, several Queen of Apostles parishioners also spoke to the parish’s need to sell the property to fulfill its financial obligations in order to spread its mission.

“I’ve been a member of both parishes and I love our churches,” said Pewaukee resident Mic Pietrykowski. “And it was a wonderful church, but it has passed its time and we cannot afford to keep it.”

Queen of Apostles parishioner Tom Pipines said he respects all of the effort Pewaukee residents have put forth to save the church. However, Pipines reminded the audience that a “a church is more than a building, it’s the people,” he said.

Pipines also spoke to Queen of Apostles limited options with the property.

“The bottom line is that Queen of Apostles Church needs money to continue to operate effectively,” Pipines said. “And the Capri development will make that possible.”

Looking ahead

As commissioners wavered on a decision, Commissioner Joe Zompa reminded the commission and the audience that 449 W. Wisconsin Avenue is a complex property involving a cemetery that cannot be disturbed as well as uneven topography.

Zompa said Capri’s proposal is one solution for the property, but if the commission denies this development, then they’ll have to work to draw interest from other developers.

“If you’re not careful, this could be an unused property for decades,” Zompa said. “Let’s say the village wants to see single-family homes, you’ve got to create an incentive package to offset the property’s complexities.”