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School Board endorses Cardinal Stritch campus

Jan. 14, 2009

St. Francis School Board members say a $150-million Cardinal Stritch University at the Cousins Center and adjacent We Energies property would be an asset to the community.

“I think on behalf of education in the community, I think it would be vital to have Cardinal Stritch here,” board President Jacqueline Hemmer said.

On Jan. 2, the board directed staff to send a statement in support of Cardinal Stritch to the Common Council.

Board member Kathleen Rutter said having a university at the Cousins Center would be “a magnet,” drawing students and faculty into the community, boosting the city’s population.

The campus would house 800 resident students, with an additional 1,070 students commuting to the campus and about 420 full- and part-time employees working there, said Scott Rudie, a spokesman for Cardinal Stritch.

Rutter said the university would offer employment opportunities, and the proximity of the campus would be an incentive for residents to enroll in higher education.

“There is no university on this side of downtown, except for MATC and that is very limited in a lot of the instruction that it offers,” she said.

A nearby campus would also allow for potential shared services between the district and university, she said.

While the tax-exempt campus would not add to the city’s tax base, board member Bob Boknevitz noted it would spark development in the area.

“It would stabilize the community and maintain a lot of things that we have,” he said. “I can’t see it as a loss. When opportunity is knocking, open the door.”

Board member Diane Mayer noted the Cousins Center property has not been on the city tax rolls for “many, many years.”

Mayer said Cardinal Stritch would pay a base amount each year to the city for police and fire services, which would be stipulated in a development agreement.

Superintendent Carol Topinka said she understands concerns expressed by various environmental groups on the effect a campus might have on the adjacent Seminary Woods, but that Cardinal Stritch prides itself on Franciscan values and preserving green space.

“I agree,” Rutter said. “I think they can both work together and live in harmony.”

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

At a Glance

WHAT: A public hearing will be held on Cardinal Stritch’s proposal to rezone the Cousins Center and adjacent We Energies property to house a South Shore campus.

WHEN: 6:30 p.m. Monday, Feb. 2

WHERE: St. Francis High School gymnasium, 4225 S. Lake Drive

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