Former Muskego elementary schools eyed for multi-family, senior living developments

Plans include 122-unit senior housing project at Tess Corners school site

Conceptual rendering of the proposed senior housing development at the former Tess Corners Elementary School site. (Credit: InSite Architects)
Conceptual rendering of the proposed senior housing development at the former Tess Corners Elementary School site. (Credit: InSite Architects)

Two former elementary schools in Muskego could be transformed into residential developments, one as an apartment building and the other as a new expansive senior living community.

According to plans filed with the city, the site of the former Tess Corners Elementary School at the southeast corner of Janesville Road and Durham Place could be redeveloped into 122-unit senior housing complex. The existing school building would be razed to make way for the new complex.

Meanwhile, the former Muskego Elementary School at the northeast corner of Janesville Road and Park Drive could be redeveloped into a 22-unit apartment building. Plans also call for the construction of two townhouse buildings on the site that would contain 18 units in all.

On Tuesday evening, the Muskego Plan Commission will discuss conceptual plans for the senior housing development. They will also consider approving the building, site and operation plans for the Muskego School Apartments. The city is also scheduled to hold a public hearing on Oct. 22 for a rezoning of the 9.2-acre Tess Corners site, said Adam Trzebiatowski, Muskego planning manager.

Plans for the senior housing project were submitted by Presbyterian Homes Wisconsin Inc., an affiliate of St. Paul, Minnesota-based Presbyterian Homes & Services, and its development arm, Senior Housing Partners.

The Muskego School Apartments project is being proposed by an affiliate of The Commonwealth Cos., of Fond du Lac. City officials in mid-December approved the necessary rezoning of the property.

Plans for the senior housing development call for a building with three “wings,” with a town center area in the middle. A total of 82 units of independent-living apartments would be spread across the pair of three-story wings at the southern end of the building. The building’s northern wing closest to Janesville Road, at two stories tall, would consist of 20 assisted-living units on the first floor and 20 memory-care units on the second floor.

The town center would consist of 19,500 square feet of program space across three levels. It would offer amenities that “promote physical, intellectual, spiritual and emotional well‐being.”

The plans being presented Tuesday night are still conceptual, meaning Plan Commission members will only be providing feedback and giving recommendations on the proposal. Trzebiatowski said this represents an “optional” phase that developers can elect to do before submitting for any formal approvals.

“There’s no approval resolution,” Trzebiatowski said. “It really means nothing other than it gives the applicant suggestions on what they should focus on.”

He said that feedback from Tuesday’s meeting can be applied to detailed development plans. He added the city expects to be getting those plans, such as site design and building architecture, within the next week or so.

Presbyterian Homes and Senior Housing Partners also held a community meeting on the project on Wednesday. Lisa Albain, project developer with Senior Housing Partners, said attendees were receptive to the idea.

“We had no negative comments (at the meeting),” she said. “The overwhelming response from the neighbors is they were very happy to see what was going in, that they were looking forward to no longer having a vacant building in their backyard.”

Detailed site and architectural plans are likely to be up for approval by city officials at the same time as the rezoning request, Trzebiatowski said.

Muskego-Norway School District still owns the Tess Corners Elementary site. Albain said her group has an agreement with the school district to acquire the site by December, which gives them time to secure all necessary approvals on the project.

If all goes as planned, said Albain, the city will have signed off on the development by Nov. 11.

Presbyterian Homes generated over $420 million in revenue and held more than $1.5 billion in assets in 2018. it employs more than 6,500 people, and has 46 affiliated senior-living communities in Wisconsin, Minnesota and Iowa. It was established in 1955.

Its other senior communities in the Milwaukee market include Avalon Square in Waukesha, Kirkland Crossings in Pewaukee, Dickson Hollow in Menomonee Falls, Fairway Knoll in Germantown and Towner Crest in Oconomowoc.

Senior Housing Partners, formed in 1995, has developed 74 projects, and has been in the capital market for more than $3.1 billion of development.

Albain said Presbyterian Homes plans to further expand its presence in the region, increasing from the five existing communities to 10-12 of them.

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Alex Zank, former BizTimes Milwaukee reporter.

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