Developers pursuing Cardinal Stritch's big, border-hopping property

The closure of Cardinal Stritch puts 43 acres of land on the market for redevelopment. This is an unusual opportunity for Milwaukee's north shore that is already attracting interest from real estate firms.

Developers pursuing Cardinal Stritch's big, border-hopping property

Cardinal Stritch has unexpectedly closed, putting 43 acres of land on the market. This is a unique opportunity for Milwaukee's North Shore and it's already attracting real estate interest.

This land has been owned by the university for over 75 years. Cardinal Stritch announced on April 10 that it would close in May after the end of the academic year. Dan Scholz, president of the university, said that by mid-week the university received several calls from potential buyers.

A sale is likely to result in a massive redevelopment, which may include housing, unless the university finds a unicorn buyer who can reuse their current buildings for higher education.

Scholz speculated, 'I guess they would probably try to tear them down and build condos.' It's a beautiful piece of land here on the North Shore. It's up to the developer.

According to developers who spoke on the condition of anonymity about the site, possible new uses include market-rate apartments or senior apartments, retail or commercial space or medical offices. On the eastern side of the site, which is closer to single family neighborhoods, houses or other less intense development could be built.

Any self-respecting builder would not ignore the opportunity, even though it comes with some risks and challenges. A local developer said that any company that could take on such a large site would be interested in Cardinal Stritch's land, and that it was going to be like a beauty pageant to choose a buyer.

This could be good news for Cardinal Stritch financially. According to documents filed at the Milwaukee County Register of Deeds, the university took out a mortgage of $10.05 million on its campus in May 2018. According to the financial statement of the university for 2021, approximately $8.85 millions was still owed on this mortgage as of July 31.

Cardinal Stritch will have to select a buyer who can get approval from two different municipalities. The campus is split between Fox Point and Glendale. This means that a large-scale redevelopment will require separate approvals for each community.

Glendale Mayor Bryan Kennedy confirmed that he had discussed the Cardinal Stitch property with Christine Symchych, who will be taking over as Fox Point village president next week. He made the Cardinal Stritch announcement just after he had congratulated Symchych on her election as Fox Point village president.

Kennedy stated that he and his team had made a commitment to collaborate on any project that might arise. We want to work together. We are both landlocked and fully developed, so there is no large parcel of land to work with.

If a developer is looking for local tax-incremental financing to help demolish Cardinal Stritch’s buildings, or cover other costs, they will need to get more public approval. In that case, each municipality would need to create and approve its own TIF district.

According to Douglas Frazer, the village president of Fox Point Village who is leaving his post in the near future, a redevelopment could mean a new tax base for local government. The property does not generate property taxes under Cardinal Stritch.

Frazer stated that this could be a chance to add the Fox Point section of the campus into our tax base. We are in excellent financial shape. In fact, our village has the highest bond rating in the entire state. We could lower taxes rather than spending the extra revenue.

Details of a partnership between Glendale, California and Fox Point have yet to be worked on. However, both communities are familiar with the challenges that come along with border-straddling properties. The border between Fox Point Bayside and properties south of Brown Deer Road cuts through the buildings.

In the past, both officials have communicated when, for instance, a new retailer wanted to move into an existing building. The village will let Bayside approve a business that is low-impact and does not cause concern for Fox Point.

Kennedy stated that about 30 parcels crossed the municipal border of Glendale. He said that when Glendale used Cardinal Stritch to poll voters, they would walk through Fox Point as they walked from the parking area.

He said, "This is nothing new for us."

One local developer pointed out that a large redevelopment project, which would provide Cardinal Stritch with the greatest return on its land, is likely to be the subject of the most public debate and may even generate pushback from residents.

One observer said, "there is a lot to do there."

Kennedy and a real estate developer discussed the possibility of building higher density buildings along Port Washington Road on the Glendale end, and single family homes on the Fox Point end.