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Cardinal Stritch drops We Energies land purchase

Hunt on for athletic venues elsewhere

March 31, 2009

Due to the downturn in the economy, Cardinal Stritch University is no longer eyeing roughly 90 acres of We Energies land to house athletic fields for a South Shore campus.

"The board believes that this is the time to be prudent and develop the best fiscal plan for the new campus," Joanne Williams, vice president of public relations and marketing for Cardinal Stritch, said in a news release.

Williams said university officials are looking at opportunities in the Milwaukee area to build athletic fields.

Discussions about purchasing the Cousins Center, 3501 S. Lake Drive, for a campus without the adjacent We Energies property continue, she said.

Green group thrilled

St. Francis Green Space members are elated that the We Energies land will be left untouched for now and that a campus will still be constructed at the Cousins Center. Many environmentalists voiced concern that use of the We Energies property would threaten the ecosystem of the nearby Seminary Woods.

"From our point of view, we're happy it's going to stay the way it is," said Ray Klug, a Friends of St. Francis Green Space member. "But I don't think it's a dead issue. I think Cardinal Stritch (officials) could change their minds."

But because the We Energies parcel is up for sale, anything could be constructed there in the future, he said.

"It would be nice if We Energies would designate it as a conservation easement," he said.

Mayor Al Richards said because Stritch officials are no longer planning to use the We Energies property, there is less land to build storm-water retention ponds for the development.

Richards said Greene Park would be a viable alternative for house athletic fields. The park is located less than 1 1/2 miles from the Cousins Center.

Developer welcomes university

Jim Siepmann of Siepmann Realty is developing 24 lots in a new Trestle Creek subdivision just a stone's throw from the We Energies property. So far, 10 of the 24 lots are sold, he said.

He said people building homes in Trestle Creek "were not thrilled" about the We Energies property being converted into athletic fields because they wanted it to remain open space.

"But at least you knew what was going to be there," he said.

Cardinal Stritch University began negotiations with the Archdiocese of Milwaukee to purchase the Cousins Center last July. A 415,000-square-foot building on the grounds has been underused for years, according to university officials.

The purchase agreement was contingent upon buying the abutting We Energies land to the south, creating a $150 million campus.

Chantel Balzell can be reached at (262) 446-6602.

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