Historic St. Francis of Assisi breaks ground for parish center, monastery project

Located Milwaukee’s Haylard Park neighborhood, near downtown

St. Francis of Assisi Monastery and Church. (Photo: Capuchin Franciscan Province of St. Joseph)

St. Francis of Assisi Parish and the Capuchin Franciscan Province of St. Joseph broke ground Tuesday for a new 16,200-square-foot parish center and a renovation of the 38,000-square-foot historic St. Francis Monastery in Milwaukee’s Haylard Park neighborhood.

The 150-year-old parish, 1927 Vel R. Phillips Ave., will undergo interior restorations, including the addition of a new ADA accessible entrance to the north side of the building. The new center will include seating for up to 200, a warming kitchen, outdoor community terrace, large meeting room and parish offices. The center will serve as a multi-purpose assembly space for St. Francis Parish and the community.

Chicago-based MKB Architects is the project architect and Fond du Lac-based C.D. Smith Construction is the general contractor for the projects. Project costs were not disclosed.

As part of the project, exterior masonry walls of the new center will be constructed of historic Cream City brick reclaimed from the former St. Francis Convent Chapel of the Sisters of St. Francis of Assisi.

St. Francis of Assisi Monastery – which was built in phases beginning in 1869 – will undergo a complete renovation to house as many as 24 Capuchin friars. The friars currently live at friaries around Milwaukee, and some of them serve at Capuchin Community Services’ House of Peace and St. Ben’s Community Meal sites.

The building will include 19 friar bedrooms, nine restored guest rooms, restored dining rooms, library and meeting rooms, an office area, a renovated interior courtyard and screened-in porch.

“A big part of Capuchin life, following the example of St. Francis of Assisi, is friars living together in community,” said Br. Michael Sullivan, provincial minister for the Province of St. Joseph. “The St. Francis Friary and Parish Center, in bringing friars together under one roof, helps us to strengthen our fraternal bond. At the same time, we are continuing stewardship of the historic complex of buildings that have long been an anchor for the Halyard Park neighborhood in Milwaukee.”

Construction of the friary and parish center is expected to be complete in 12 to 18 months.

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