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Mount Mary plans $45M intergenerational housing on campus for seniors and single mothers

Mount Mary University will soon be the site of an intergenerational housing community for retired sisters and seniors, and will provide an educational and supportive housing option for single mothers who are students at Mount Mary.

Groundbreaking for the $45 million project is expected in mid-2020, following and contingent upon City of Milwaukee review and approval as a three-way venture between the School Sisters of Notre Dame Central Pacific Province, Mount Mary University and the Milwaukee Catholic Home. It is expected to be completed by the end of November 2021.

The intent of this community is twofold: To provide a vibrant, intergenerational 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.

“We look forward to partnering with our sponsored ministry, Mount Mary University, and the Milwaukee Catholic Home to provide a unique space that offers us the ability to live out our SSND mission and charism, with a focus on education, spirituality and interculturality,” said Sister Debra Sciano, provincial leader for the School Sisters of Notre Dame Central Pacific Province.

The proposed site will be located on the north side of campus, west of the wooded area along Burleigh Street. The proposed layout also includes an entrance to the complex from Burleigh Street. It will accommodate the spectrum of care needs for the School Sisters of Notre Dame, who will be moving to campus from their longtime home in Elm Grove.

The housing community will be comprised of a living spaces that include 52 assisted living units for the School Sisters of Notre Dame, 24 dormitory units for single mothers enrolled as students at Mount Mary University and their young children, and 90 independent living apartments for individuals over age 62.

Other features for the development include an early childhood education center for children from the campus and families in the surrounding area, and a town center with amenities for the sisters and other residents including a bistro, health clinic, salon, community room and other similar amenities.

The Milwaukee Catholic Home currently manages the care provided to the sisters at Notre Dame of Elm Grove. This more formal partnership at Mount Mary University will expand and honor the legacy and charism of the School Sisters of Notre Dame, said Dave Fulcher, chief executive officer of the Milwaukee Catholic Home.

“We are honored to be part of a process that truly leverages our collective ministries to enhance the experiences of retired sisters, elders and young women and their children being served by this new intergenerational community,” Fulcher said.

While many details have yet to be determined, a key design theme is to create spaces that inspire what Mount Mary President Christine Pharr, Ph.D., calls “intentional and serendipitous interactions” between these different groups in this living space.

“An intergenerational home that will include sisters and students is a wonderful fit for the campus,” Pharr said.

While it is uncommon in this region for a university to include housing options for single mothers, a handful of other colleges across the country offer this type of housing. One of them is the College of St. Mary in Omaha, Nebraska, where Pharr served in multiple leadership roles, including vice president for academic affairs.

“I have participated in a program to provide housing to single mothers and their children and it is one of the most life-changing experiences I have ever witnessed,” Pharr added. “Educating single mothers who often live in poverty breaks that cycle and provides their children with a firsthand experience of the value of education.”

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Lee Matz

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