Mandel to buy, redevelop School Sisters of Notre Dame’s Elm Grove campus

Planning market-rate apartments at 30-acre site

Credit: Google
Credit: Google

Last updated on April 29th, 2020 at 11:29 am

Milwaukee-based developer Mandel Group Inc. has signed a purchase agreement with the School Sisters of Notre Dame to purchase their 30-acre campus in Elm Grove, where Mandel plans to develop market-rate apartments.

According to a news release, Mandel will build an undetermined number of apartment units at the campus, located at 13105 Watertown Plank Road. However, the apartments will be developed “in a manner sensitive to the surrounding neighborhood,” the release states.

“We are excited to redevelop the Sister’s campus while respecting and honoring the Sister’s heritage and contributions to the community,” Phillip Aiello, Mandel senior vice president of development, said in the release.

Aiello added that the campus’ walkability, charm, proximity to downtown Elm Grove and quick access to downtown Milwaukee “make it an ideal location for an apartment community.”

The School Sisters are divesting of all their major properties in the Central Pacific Providence, which includes Wisconsin. They plan to move their residence from Elm Grove to a $40 million housing development at Mount Mary University.

Daniel Romnek, development associate with Mandel, said no closing date is scheduled on the Elm Grove property, but the signing of the purchase agreement means preliminary work such as surveying and soil examination will soon commence.

He said Mandel will likely file specific development plans for village approval later this summer.

However, he said, the project will involve a combination of historic preservation and new construction. One thing Mandel has determined so far is it intends to rehabilitate at least two of the buildings, Notre Dame Hall and Maria Hall. Both buildings are prominently placed at the front of the campus, visible to Watertown Plank Road.

“Preservation of historic buildings comes at the cross-section of purpose, function, and marketplace,” Aiello said in the release. “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.”

Mandel is planning out what will happen with the rest of the buildings. Romnek said there are another five to eight buildings on site, depending on whether certain connector buildings are counted as individual buildings.

“There will be some new construction on the site, we just haven’t exactly determined what that will be yet,” he said.

And the developer will have some time to plan out these details. Romnek noted that the firm cannot begin moving dirt until the sisters have relocated to Mount Mary, which is anticipated to occur in November 2021.

The sisters selected Mandel following a competitive request-for-proposals process that included several qualified developers, according to the release.

“We are confident they will honor the SSND legacy, mission and core values as they develop the property in the months and years ahead,” Sister Debra Sciano wrote in a letter to village residents.

Mandel has done similar work in Elm Grove and the Milwaukee area. For instance, it developed The Watermark Condominiums and preserved Old St. Mary’s Catholic Church directly across Watertown Plank Road from the sisters’ campus. Mandel also preserved two Eschweiler buildings as part of its Echelon apartment community in Wauwatosa, and turned the Marine Terminal Building in Milwaukee’s Historic Third Ward into condominiums and office space.

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Alex Zank
Alex Zank covers commercial and residential real estate for BizTimes. Alex previously worked for Farm Equipment magazine and also covered statewide construction news at The Daily Reporter. He graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, where he studied journalism, political science and economics. Having grown up in rural western Wisconsin, Alex loves all things outdoors, including camping, hiking, four-wheeling and hunting.