ELM GROVE – The School Sisters of Notre Dame are set to leave Elm Grove after more than 150 years. The news comes after the announcement of a purchase agreement between the Sisters and Milwaukee-based Mandel Group.
In a letter addressed to village residents, the Sisters expressed confidence in the redevelopment plans.
“We are confident they will honor the SSND legacy, mission and core values as they develop the property in the months and years ahead,” wrote Sister Debra Sciano in her letter to village residents.
Mandel has not released plans, but it anticipates the preservation of the historic buildings visible from Watertown Plank Road and the development of market-rate apartments in a manner sensitive to the surrounding neighborhood.
“We are excited to redevelop the Sister’s campus while respecting and honoring the Sisters’ heritage and contributions to the community,” said Phillip Aiello, senior vice president of development for Mandel Group, in a statement.
Elm Grove Zoning Administrator Tom Harrigan said no formal application has been sent to the village yet.
“The press release from Mandel indicated that they most likely intend on submitting four apartments, but we don’t know whether or not those are going to be owner-occupied condominiums or they’re going to be all apartments,” he said. The Sisters’ campus is located at 13105 Watertown Plank Road, immediately east of the Elm Grove’s downtown.
“The walkability to the charm and convenience of downtown Elm Grove as well as quick access to downtown Milwaukee make it an ideal location for an apartment community,” said Aiello. “Preservation of historic buildings comes at the cross-section of purpose, function, and marketplace. Maria Hall and Notre Dame Hall on the Sisters’ campus appear to be well-suited for conversion to housing and associated amenities while providing distinct apartments in the marketplace.”
Mount Mary University will be the new home for the Sisters. The 2021 relocation is part of the university’s $45 million plan for inter-generational housing on the campus.
“The intent of this community is twofold: To provide a vibrant, inter-generational living environment for School Sisters of Notre Dame and seniors, and to provide an educational and supportive housing option for single mothers who are students at Mount Mary,” reads a press release on the university’s website.
Despite the changes, School Sisters will continue to live and work in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee and within the greater community.
The Schools Sisters of Notre Dame came to Wisconsin in 1850, primarily serving as a school for German immigrant children in the Milwaukee area. The effort was led by Mother Caroline Friess, SSND, who then purchased 40 acres of land in Elm Grove to build an orphanage for girls and a home for retired sisters. The property eventually increased in size and became known as Notre Dame of Elm Grove.
“The School Sisters of Notre Dame were here long before the village of Elm Grove was established and have been an important part of the fabric of the village,” said Neil Palmer, Elm Grove village president, in a letter to constituents. “I know many of us will miss the Sisters when they move to their new home at Mount Mary University.”
Palmer said over the coming months the Village Board will work to be transparent about the process. “We all want the best possible project that will continue to keep Elm Grove a great place to live,” he said.