Bishop O’Connor Center

Creative reuse turns half of former Catholic seminary in Madison into higher-end apartments

Written by Doug Erickson, Wisconsin State Journal

holy name seminary

Several years ago, leaders of the Madison Catholic Diocese realized they had a big challenge on their hands with the Bishop O’Connor Catholic Pastoral Center, a former seminary and home to the diocesan headquarters.

The majestic but aging building on the city’s Far West Side had become costly to maintain, with only about one-third of it being used on a regular basis.

The diocese hired a developer, and today, about half of the building has been converted to private-market apartments, adding millions of dollars to the city’s tax base. The $21 million project celebrated its grand opening in August, and all 53 apartments are now occupied, ahead of expectations.

“There’s more life to the building now — more people, more activity,” said Monsignor James Bartylla, the diocese’s second-ranking official, adding that the project keeps the “legacy property” in the diocese while preserving much of its spiritual and cultural identity.

The building at 702 S. High Point Road, a few blocks south of the Beltline, opened in 1964 as Holy Name Seminary, a high school for boys interested in possibly becoming priests. The seminary closed in 1995.

The building was rechristened in 1997 as the Bishop O’Connor Catholic Pastoral Center, honoring the founding bishop of the diocese. Its new name, Holy Name Heights, brings the site back full circle.

For apartment dwellers, it offers one of the more unusual residential settings in the city.

The diocesan headquarters remain, imbuing the building with a sense of the sacred. Tenants have 24-hour access to the building’s centerpiece, an on-site chapel with soaring stained glass windows and a 360-piece mosaic that rises three stories behind the altar. Mass is celebrated daily during the week.

For a more secular experience, there’s a full-size gym, newly restored to its retro glory. The 72-acre site offers 2.5 miles of walking paths, a running track, a baseball diamond and fields for football and soccer.

Other amenities include two interior courtyards with arched walkways, a theater room with a 100-inch screen, and a lounge with a balcony offering panoramic views of the city and state Capitol.

“It just seems so special here,” said tenant Christina Busse, 33, a stay-at-home mom who lives in a two-bedroom apartment with her husband, Phillip, 35, and their 21-month-old son, Cephas.

Broad appeal

While anyone can live at the site, diocesan officials thought the apartments might attract mostly empty nesters and Catholics. The appeal has been broader.

Busse, who is Lutheran, said she enjoys praying in the chapel and has found her neighbors to be a friendly bunch that ranges in age from young professionals to retirees. Many seem eager to make personal connections, she said.

“People seem to want relationships here,” she said.

The site appealed to the couple for its serenity, its religious aspects, and its amenities, especially the acres of outdoor space their son can explore as he grows. Their apartment is about a 10-minute drive from Epic Systems Corp., where Phillip Busse, 34, works in technical support services. Christina Busse estimated that nearly a dozen other tenants also work at the electronic medical records giant.

Among the couple’s neighbors are Paul and Kate Stauffacher, the kind of tenants diocesan officials knew would be especially drawn to the property. Retirees in their 70s, they are devout Catholics whose two sons graduated from the former seminary.

The connection for Paul Stauffacher goes even deeper. He taught and coached at the seminary early on, then went on to serve as its principal from 1978-87. His apartment is the seminary’s former weight and equipment room where he spent so much time as a coach.

“This just struck us when we saw it,” Stauffacher said. “There is a certain element of nostalgia, but it goes beyond that. We’re daily Mass attendees, so the chapel is very convenient. We love to get out and exercise on the grounds, and our grandchildren love the gym.”

For some, there’s the added appeal of occasionally bumping into Madison Bishop Robert Morlino, who recently moved into one of the new apartments. He had been living for more than a decade in the rectory at St. Patrick’s Catholic Church, three blocks off the Capitol Square.

‘Uncommon’ project

The diocese, which continues to own the property, hired Gorman & Co. to redevelop the site. The company, based just south of Madison, has stayed on as the on-site manager for the apartments.

Gorman & Co. specializes in adaptive reuses of landmark buildings and has had a long association with the diocese. It successfully nominated the former seminary as a historic landmark. The building is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The designation allowed the company to access $5.8 million in historic tax credits — a critical piece of the financing — and also protects the building’s architectural legacy, said CEO Gary Gorman, a lifelong Catholic who grew up in the Madison area and has served as board president of Catholic Charities Madison. The project was “uncommon” and close to his heart, Gorman said.

“It did something really positive for a diocese that I’ve been a member of for 60 years,” he said. “I’m proud of both the physical and financial results, and in particular the fact that a number of people now get to call this beautiful building their home.”

The city has determined that 46.63 percent of the building is now taxable, with the rest remaining tax-exempt due to its religious use, said Scott West, a city commercial property appraiser. The assessed value of the taxable portion is currently set at $3.43 million by the city, but that number reflects only partial completion of the project, West said. The full assessment, out this April, likely will be around $5.1 million, he said.

The diocese’s 2016 tax bill for the site is $77,532. That figure is based on only the partial assessment.

The project’s total costs of $21 million are so much higher than the city assessed value because the total costs reflect work done on the entire site, not just the part turned into apartments, said Ted Matkom, president of the Wisconsin market for Gorman & Co. The project also addressed major maintenance issues on the aging building such as roofing and plumbing, he said.

One-bedroom apartments rent for $955 to $1,285 per month, while two-bedroom units go for $1,369 to $1,970. That’s probably a little less than top-of-the-line luxury units in Madison, but in the middle to upper range, said Rick Mason, property manager.

Bartylla said the project could help other dioceses think creatively about unused or vacant properties.

“I think we’ve shown that you don’t have to sell church property when it’s underutilized,” he said. “There might be an opportunity to continue ownership while finding something that works for both the diocese and the community.”

“It did something really positive for a diocese that I’ve been a member of for 60 years. I’m proud of both the physical and financial results, and in particular the fact that a number of people now get to call this beautiful building their home.” Gary Gorman, CEO of Gorman & Co., which redeveloped the former Bishop O’Connor Catholic Pastoral Center

New Life for a Madison Icon: A Celebratory Mass with Bishop Robert C. Morlino marks the groundbreaking ceremonies for the redevelopment of the Bishop O’Connor Catholic Pastoral Center

Gorman DOM Media Release 5-1-2015

MEDIA RELEASE

Friday, May 01, 2015

For More Information:

Susanne Voeltz, for Gorman & Company, Inc.
(608) 284-0848
Brent King, Diocese of Madison
(608) 821-3033
Brent.king@straphael.org

New Life for a Madison Icon:

A Celebratory Mass with Bishop Robert C. Morlino marks groundbreaking ceremonies for the redevelopment of the Bishop O’Connor Catholic Pastoral Center

Historic renovation preserves on site chapel, maintains Diocesan offices and adds a vibrant new residential community

Madison, WI—May 1, 2015—Bishop Robert C. Morlino celebrated Mass for the feast of St. Joseph the Worker today, marking groundbreaking ceremonies for the redevelopment of the Bishop O’Connor Pastoral Center (BOC). Following the mass, Bishop Morlino, flanked by numerous priests of the diocese, unveiled and blessed a recently uncovered diocesan coat of arms, that embellishes the lobby floor of the BOC and dates from its days as Holy Name Seminary.

The former Holy Name Seminary, a neo-Colonial landmark that welcomed its first students in 1964, has served as the Bishop O’Connor Catholic Pastoral Center since the seminary was closed in 1995. The redevelopment plan for the BOC – which preserves its architectural and sacred legacy and ensures strategic stewardship for the 72.6 acre property – was grounded in years of due diligence and study on the part of diocesan councils, consultors, and leadership to determine the best possible outcome for the future of the aging and underutilized former seminary.

Gorman & Company has been engaged by the diocese to serve as the developer of the $21 million project and will provide architectural and design services for the redevelopment. Upon completion of the apartment component of the project in 2016, Gorman & Company will also manage the property. First Business Bank of Madison, WI is providing the financing for the milestone redevelopment.

In anticipation of today’s event, Bishop Morlino expressed his gratitude to all those who are making this project possible, saying “It is a win-win scenario, where the diocese not only retains this historic building, keeping our presence in this most visible sign of the diocese in the community, and preserving the legacy of Holy Name Seminary, but also where new life is breathed onto the campus, which has served the local Church so well. We are so grateful for the excellent cooperation of Gary Gorman and his expert and visionary team.”

To preserve its architectural integrity, the iconic landmark, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, will be renovated as a “certified historic rehabilitation” in compliance with historic preservation guidelines prescribed by the National Park Service. Whenever possible, the BOC’s significant historic and architectural elements will be preserved, refurbished and sensitively integrated into the renovation design.

Key components of the BOC renovation will be incorporating 53 new apartment homes, updating office space for the diocese, Catholic Charities, and affiliated Catholic organizations, including the Catholic Herald and Catholic Radio, and upgrading office and kitchen facilities for Blue Plate Catering. The project will also allow Catholic Charities of Madison to bring more of their agents under one roof.

The on-site Cletus O’Donnell Holy Name Chapel will be maintained and preserved and will continue to offer daily Mass and Eucharistic Adoration during and after the BOC renovation. The chapel interior   is noted for its 360-piece mosaic, assembled in Germany, that rises three-stories behind the altar, and for its dramatic stained glass windows that were crafted in a palette of blues and pastels by the renowned Conrad Schmitt Studios.

The new residential community at the BOC, to be known as Holy Name Heights, will be comprised of 53 one and two-bedroom apartment homes that will combine contemporary living with a historic setting for a special sense of place. Units will be appointed with granite kitchen countertops and islands, stainless steel appliances, luxe plank flooring throughout, efficient cooling and heating systems, and a high speed Wi-Fi network. A guest suite will be available to rent by residents for visiting family and friends. Each unit will have an enclosed, heated parking stall and availability for bike storage as well.

Residents will have access to a host of amenities that are unique to the architectural landmark, including two interior courtyards with cloistered, arched walkways and a full size gymnasium-prime for pick-up basketball games. A wine lounge with a fireplace, stylish seating and a covered balcony offering panoramic views of the city and the Capitol, a theater room, a dance movement studio and fitness center are planned as well. The richly landscaped grounds of the BOC also feature 2.5 miles of walking trails for leisurely strolls or quick sprints.

To recognize and celebrate the BOC’s historic and cultural significance, Gorman & Company will create a dedicated space for a “History Lounge” on the lower level of the building below the chapel. In partnership with the diocese, Gorman & Company will curate a display of memorabilia and photographs chronicling the history of Holy Name Seminary. On site office tenants, residents, and visitors will have a chance to view the collection and learn about the BOC’s spiritual legacy in a warm and inviting setting.

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