A small Wisconsin Catholic university will break ground this summer on a $45 million intergenerational housing development combining independent and assisted living for seniors and nuns, with housing for single mothers pursuing degrees at the school.
The development at Mount Mary University in Milwaukee will serve the dual purposes of establishing a support system for students juggling classwork with parental duties, and providing the nuns whose order founded the school with a place to age in place, Mount Mary President Dr. Christine Pharr told Senior Housing News.
Mount Mary University was founded in 1913 by the School Sisters of Notre Dame and continues to sponsor the school. It has an enrollment of nearly 1,300 students, is women-only for undergraduate programs and co-ed for its post-grad degrees. The order’s numbers are declining and the remaining nuns are growing older, and the order is looking to divest in its properties as a result. With an 88-acre campus and most of the sisters in the order having taught at the school, they needed a place to go and the university saw this as a perfect opportunity to foster an intergenerational environment.
“The university wants to diversify the student body and seniors [provide] a lifelong education. This is a good opportunity for students to know the sisters and the seniors better, and give the sisters and seniors a chance to reinvigorate their lives through campus interaction,” Pharr said.
A growing number of schools are bringing senior housing to campuses in order to foster mutually beneficial intergenerational environments. Belmont Village partnered with the University of California, Berkeley to build a mixed-use development incorporating student and senior housing, along with retail. Purchase College — part of the State University of New York system (SUNY) — is building Broadview Senior Living, a $320 million, 220-unit independent living community on its campus in partnership with Life Care Services (LCS) and Senior Care Development.
Rome, Georgia-based Berry College announced plans October 2018 for The Spires at Berry College, a $130 million life plan community near its campus. Lasell Village, a CCRC affiliated with Lasell College in Massachusetts, requires its residents to complete at least 450 hours per year of activities such as coursework, student mentorship and research projects.
Single parents account for up to 20% of Mount Mary’s student population, and they are also one of the demographics most likely to live in poverty and not earn an education. They face obstacles to attending school such as having to arrange for child care and transportation. Having a support system on campus will help single parents already enrolled, as well as encourage other single parents to pursue degrees, Pharr told SHN.
In addition to housing, Mount Mary is building an early childhood education center and lab school, to which single parent students have access. The housing unit breakdown includes 24 dorms for student single mothers, 52 assisted living units, and 90 independent living apartments for sisters and other senior citizens ages 62 and older. As the order’s numbers continue to decline, Pharr expects some of the assisted living units to be converted to student housing.
A third partner in the project is Milwaukee Catholic Home. The joint venture registered as a nonprofit venture to pursue the development, which is expected to receive approval from the Milwaukee City Council. Groundbreaking is anticipated in early July with the first move-ins expected in late 2021.
Mount Mary also hopes to capitalize on interest in the development from alumni.
“We have alumni who are interested in the project, and in returning home,” Pharr said.