Capri Communities’ newest community in Milwaukee’s historic Italian-American neighborhood cost $28.9 million — but the price tag on the land was just $1.
St. Rita Square, a 118-unit building offering independent living, assisted living and memory care, opened in July 2020 and occupancy is currently at 70% and climbing, Founder and Principal Jim Tarantino told Senior Housing News.
The site included a long-vacant school and convent, and Capri was able to acquire the land for the project from the Archdiocese of Milwaukee for $1.
In return, Capri built a new church adjacent to St. Rita’s Square, which it then sold to the archdiocese for $1. The financing mechanism took concerns about rising land costs off the table, and allowed Capri to reallocate capital to the construction of the community and the church.
“Basically, [the archdiocese] donated the land, and we donated the church back to them,” he said.
Based in Waukesha, Wisconsin, Capri is the largest Dairy State developer, owner and operator by total number of units. Its portfolio includes 25 communities, including St. Rita’s Square.
Tarantino traces the firm’s relationship with the archdiocese back to the mid-1980s and one of his earliest developments: an adaptive reuse of a convent into senior housing. That development, Hedwig House, is still in operation.
St. Rita has deep ties to Milwaukee’s Italian community. Another church, Our Lady of Pompeii, burned down over 50 years ago and its laity moved to St. Rita — in fact, Tarantino’s family was active in the church.
But the St. Rita campus suffered from significant deterioration, the church was in what was originally the gymnasium of the school, and the archdiocese always wanted to build a new church on the site, but was never able to get past planning stages.
With the land from the archdiocese in place, Capri was able to combine the campus with two additional parcels, razed the buildings, and worked with AG Architecture to create a development that harkened to St. Rita’s original architecture while maintaining a modern feel.
The development is a testament to the longstanding relationship between Capri and the archdiocese, and has proven to be mutually beneficial. The two buildings are connected, and the church creates a ready-made intergenerational environment. Capri assisted the parish with a drive-through spaghetti dinner during the pandemic, which handed out over 800 meals.
“It speaks to the strength of our relationship with the archdiocese,” Tarantino said.
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