A Stritch, in time, could be a boon for St. Francis
Supporters point to benefits of campus at Cousins Center
From Sally Wittman’s perspective, Cardinal Stritch University’s presence in the Cousins Center is just what the community needs.
The influx of students and educators likely would speed up retail development along South Lake Drive, create a higher demand for area housing, enhance local businesses and make higher education more accessible for South Shore students, said Wittman, who has lived in St. Francis for more than 20 years.
"I think a lot of kids don't strive for higher education here because they don't see it," she said. "I think it would be great to have Cardinal Stritch in St. Francis."
Stritch is the second-largest independent college in the state, according to a news release. But at its current main campus in Fox Point and Glendale, the university is virtually landlocked.
In an effort to expand, Stritch wants to acquire the Cousins Center, 3801 S. Lake Drive, and set it up as a branch campus that would serve undergraduate students.
On July 14, Stritch officials reached a preliminary purchase agreement with the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, the site's current owner. A final agreement would be subject to approval by Stritch's Board of Trustees and the administrative team for the Sisters of Saint Francis of Assisi, the university's sponsors.
Zoning in on a purchase
Although a sale price has been set, the purchase is contingent upon rezoning of the property by the city of St. Francis.
The 415,000-square-foot center sits on a 44-acre plot that is zoned for mixed uses. To accommodate a university, it would need to be rezoned into a planned-unit development or for institutional use, City Engineer Melinda Dejewski said.
Brett Kell, a spokesman for Cardinal Stritch, said university officials are completing the forms to request zoning changes. Officials hope to have all materials gathered before the Common Council's meeting in early September.
If everything goes according to plan, Cardinal Stritch University President Helen Sobehart said it would be at least four years before the university would house "a vibrant campus" for undergraduate students at the Cousins Center.
The campus would house all four of its colleges - Arts and Sciences, Business and Management, Education and Leadership, and Ruth S. Coleman College of Nursing - at the center.
"The full array of services for undergraduate students would be present at the Cousins Center campus," she said.
Dormitories for students would be constructed either on the site or nearby, she said.
Before those details unfold, some issues have to be resolved to the city's satisfaction.
City Administrator Ralph Voltner said police and fire personnel could require special training to deal with the new situation.
Also, if Cardinal Stritch occupies the site, the university could be exempt from paying property taxes or user fees.
Mayor Al Richards said that while he feels the university would be an asset, city officials want the Cousins Center to be put back on the city's tax rolls.
"Our interest lies in generating (tax) revenue because it will cost us something to service them," he said. "It may turn out that they may not have to pay a dime. Who knows?"
Higher goals for community
Richards said having the university would help expand opportunities for higher education in the city.
"I'm hoping they come," he said. "There are a lot of good points about having them there."
Shari Franz and Eric Ellsworth, whose businesses are each less than a mile from the Cousins Center, also hope Cardinal Stritch will move in.
"This would be a godsend to all the businesses down here," said Franz, owner of The Fixx Coffee House, 3558 E. Sivyer Ave.
She said the addition of a university would attract other retail developments, create a higher demand for real estate, and bring in more customers.
Franz noted that the city would not lose any tax dollars since the Cousins Center, as a church-affiliated property, has not been on the city's tax rolls.
Ellsworth, owner of Carleton Grange Pub, 3708 S. Packard Ave., said the university "would definitely" speed up developments along Lake Drive.
"There would be a whole new market of students and more people spending money," he said.
Chantel Balzell can be reached at (262) 446-6602.
Projections at Cardinal Stritch's Milwaukee campus, according to a feasibility study:
940 undergraduate students enrolled at Cardinal Stritch University in Glendale-Fox Point in 2007
4,200 graduate and non-traditional students enrolled in 2007
1,600 undergraduate students expected to be enrolled in 2012
4,700 graduate and non-traditional students expected to be enrolled in 2012
1,800 undergraduate students estimated to be enrolled in 2017
5,500 graduate and non-traditional students expected to be enrolled in 2017
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