East side church to be razed, relocated for $20 million senior living development

Church will be rebuilt on adjacent parcel

Rendering of planned development at St. Rita's Church

Last updated on May 15th, 2019 at 04:57 pm

A Catholic church built on Milwaukee’s Lower East Side in 1939 will be torn down for a new six-story senior living development with ground level retail.

Rendering of planned development at St. Rita's Church
Rendering of planned development at St. Rita’s Church

St. Rita’s Church, 1601 N. Cass St., will be replaced with St. Rita’s Square, a $20 million senior community that will include independent and assisted living, memory care and a new church. It is being developed by Jim Tarantino, founder and principal of Tarantino & Co. and Capri Senior Communities.

St. Rita’s and Three Holy Women, the Milwaukee East Side Catholic Community the church is affiliated with, will be able to purchase the new church for $1.

“One week ago, Christians around the world celebrated Easter, an important time of renewal and new beginnings,” said Three Holy Women co-pastor The Rev. Timothy Kitzke said. “It is fitting that today, we celebrate another renewal. We as a congregation and a community have the opportunity to make this new church our own. It’s a community effort to create a spiritual and cultural center that will help carry St. Rita’s into a bright and promising future.”

The new church will include art and stained glass from the current St. Rita’s, including items from Blessed Virgin of Pompeii Church, St. Rita’s predecessor and the centerpiece of the city’s Italian-American community until it was razed to make way for freeway construction in 1967, Kitzke said.

St. Rita’s Square will be operated by Capri Senior Communities. It will feature 29 independent living apartments, 48 assisted living apartments and 26 memory care units. The first floor will include 2,800 square feet of retail space at the corner of Pleasant and Van Buren streets, as well as enclosed vehicle parking and indoor and outdoor parking for bicycles.

A climate-controlled walkway will connect the building to the new St. Rita’s Church, which is expected to have approximately 3,600 square feet of first-floor area that includes worship space, sacristy and parish offices.

Rendering of planned development.
Rendering of planned development.

A lower level will have elevator access, fellowship space and a servicing kitchen. An outdoor meditation and contemplation area is planned for quiet and small group worship.

“St. Rita’s Square will be a vibrant addition to the Lower East Side, blending a caring environment for seniors with a neighborhood-sensitive design and retail options that will serve the whole community,” Kitzke said.

Tarantino said his deep family connections to St. Rita’s and Our Blessed Virgin of Pompeii were part of the inspiration for St. Rita’s Square.

“My parents grew up in the Third Ward and attended St. Rita’s and the Blessed Virgin of Pompeii – like so many Sicilians, the church was central to our family’s culture.” he said. “So much of how our family continues to live traces its origin back to the church community, and as we’ve built our company and senior living communities, mission, faith and family have been a big part of that work.”

The design of St. Rita’s Square is inspired by the Mediterranean design of the Blessed Virgin of Pompeii. Tarantino & Company architects, including AG Architecture, are collaborating with Three Holy Women Parish and a liturgical architect to design the church interior.

St. Rita’s Square will occupy approximately 1.1 acres located one block east of North Van Buren Street at the corner of East Pleasant and North Cass streets.

Waukesha-based Capri owns and operates 11 other senior communities in southeastern Wisconsin. In January, Capri announced it would purchase the Harbor Campus senior community in Port Washington and would expand the independent living and memory care space at the facility.

In February, Capri announced a $21 million, 128-unit expansion of its Germantown facility.

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