Marian Center in St. Francis to close

Dozens of nonprofits forced to relocate

The Marian Center for Nonprofits, a two-building campus of rental space for social justice organizations, artists and community groups in St. Francis, will close on July 1.

The Marian Center for Nonprofits in St. Francis.

The buildings were part of St. Mary’s Academy from 1904 to 1991 and have housed dozens of nonprofits for the past 25 years. The center is sponsored by the Sisters of St. Francis of Assisi.

Marian Center Executive Director Charlane O’Rourke-Hertig declined to comment on why the center will close its doors. However, financial information filed with the federal government in 2013 and 2015 indicate the center has struggled to keep pace with its operational expenses in recent years.

In 2015, the Marian Center pulled in $359,642 in revenue. The vast majority of that money, $344,460, was made from rent charged to its many nonprofit tenants. That year, operational expenses totaled $384,182. In 2013, the center made $376,752 but operational expenses were $395,126.

The cost of utilities alone in the center’s two buildings totaled more than $70,000 in 2013 and 2015.

Plans for what will happen to the center’s two century-old buildings have not been released.

Tenants at the Marian Center include 28 education and social justice organizations, 18 artists and 15 community groups, according to papers filed with the federal government. Organizations were notified the center would be closing in late December. Now, they’re searching for a new home.


“It was definitely economical space for nonprofits with a small budget,” said Down Syndrome Association of Wisconsin Executive Director Dawn NuofferHer organization, which serves 4,000 families across the state, has been headquartered in Milwaukee for 25 years and moved into the Marian Center in 2009.

“When you are trying to reduce as many overhead costs as possible so you can pour all your money into your programming, having a partner like the Marian Center was great,” Nuoffer said. “Trying to find a location and move within six months while trying to run your organization … is a challenge. But the word is getting out, so we’re hoping that people who might be interested in leasing to nonprofits in an economical manner will come out and say, ‘Hey we’ve got space for you guys.'”

The Center for Deaf-Blind Persons, a nonprofit that helps people with hearing and vision loss, is also searching for a new place. The nonprofit has rented 3,100 square feet at the Marian Center since it opened in 1991.

“We were established in Jan. 1985 and opened our doors at St. Johns school for the deaf on Kinnickinnic,” said Joan Schneider, executive director for the Center for Deaf-Blind Persons, Inc. “When that closed, we opened here, and then we were told this was going to close.”

Schneider said once they find a new location, it will be difficult to redirect her organization’s clients, many of whom have received services there for years, because of their hearing and vision loss. She’ll also miss being part of a center that housed so many nonprofits. Close proximity occasionally led to pooling of resources and collaborating with marketing efforts, she said.

Tenants listed on the Marian Center’s website include: Acacia Theatre Company, Academy Studio for the Performing and Visual Arts, Air Shows of Wisconsin, Inc., AMVETS Post #60, ArtStart, Center for Deaf-Blind Persons, Inc., Clare Oasis, Dismas Ministry, The Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena, Down Syndrome Association of Wisconsin, Honor Our Military, Inc., Hypnosis Wisconsin, Lakeland Baptist Association, Inc., The Lalumiere League, Mindfulness Community of Milwaukee, The Montessori Institute of Milwaukee, Inc., Moving Within, Order of Christ the Healer, People First Wisconsin, Red Oak Writing, Royal Academy of Dance, The St. Mary’s Academy Alumnae Association, SoL/SPA, Spiritual Living Center of Greater Milwaukee, Splinter Group, Universal Anglican Church, Veterans Day Parade of Milwaukee, Inc., Wisconsin We Care, and Wisdom.

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Ben Stanley, former BizTimes Milwaukee reporter.

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