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UW-Eau Claire Foundation subsidiary acquires
St. Bede Monastery

RELEASED: Oct. 21, 2011

EAU CLAIRE — The Sisters of the Order of Saint Benedict today announced the sale of St. Bede Monastery to a subsidiary of the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire Foundation Inc.

The monastery property includes 112 mostly wooded acres in the Town of Washington and three building complexes totaling approximately 80,000 square feet. It is located three miles south of the UW-Eau Claire campus. The sale price was $1 million.

In announcing the sale, Sister Michaela Hedican, prioress of the Benedictine order, said the sisters were pleased to be able to sell St. Bede's to a foundation whose mission is to support UW-Eau Claire.

"St. Bede's was founded nearly 50 years ago as an educational institution, and it is satisfying that it will continue in support of UW-Eau Claire," Hedican said.

UW-Eau Claire Chancellor Brian Levin-Stankevich said the acquisition of St. Bede's preserves an iconic Chippewa Valley institution and provides numerous opportunities for potential future uses by the university and the Eau Claire community.

"St. Bede's offers a unique and inspiring setting as well as substantial and varied building space that can be utilized for a variety of educational purposes," Levin-Stankevich said. "Properties such as St. Bede's become available once in a generation, if that. The university is grateful to the foundation for purchasing the property in support of our current and future programs. We are also grateful to the Sisters of the Order of St. Benedict for their vision to create, nurture and sustain such a special place."

Kimera Way, executive director of the UW-Eau Claire Foundation, said this is the first time the foundation has invested in real estate to support the mission of the university.

"The St. Bede's acreage increases by one-third the amount of land available to the university in the Eau Claire area and offers possibilities that we cannot even envision at this time — so this represents an investment in both our present and our future," Way said.

The first intended use of St. Bede's by the university is as the relocation site for the current Children's Center. Campus School, which currently houses the Children's Center, will be razed in spring 2012 to make way for the university's Education Building project. The university had been planning to build a new Children's Center next to the Human Sciences and Services building on Water Street. However, bids for the project, which opened Aug. 10, exceeded the $3.8 million budget, and options for how to best proceed were explored. Those options included redesign, value engineering and other cost-reduction measures, and off-campus relocation sites.

According to Children's Center Building Committee Chair Jodi Thesing-Ritter, several facilities that would be suitable for the Children's Center were evaluated, and St. Bede's was identified as the preferred option.

"St. Bede's offers the perfect combination of classroom space and an extraordinary outdoor setting for children," Thesing-Ritter said. "There are groomed trails throughout the property, rolling hills, and green spaces for free exploration and learning."

Children's Center Director Rebecca Wurzer agreed, adding St. Bede's offers opportunities for additional programming not possible at the on-campus location.

"We are excited that this facility will enable us to implement the nature-based curriculum and programming that we have always envisioned for the new center but on a much larger scale," Wurzer said. "The school is more spacious than the one that was planned on campus — so it will not only meet our current needs, including our infant and toddler program, but also allow for possible future expansion."

The Children's Center will occupy approximately one-third of the overall building space at St. Bede's, and the remaining two-thirds will be available for other purposes, Way said.

UW-Eau Claire students are the primary users of Children's Center services, including the infant and toddler care program currently located at an off-campus location, Chapel Heights United Methodist Church on East Hamilton Avenue. In addition to students who use the center's child care services, hundreds of students either work, volunteer or engage in observation activities at the Children's Center annually. UW-Eau Claire is committed to exploring the development of a convenience shuttle service to efficiently transport students and parents to and from St. Bede's, Thesing-Ritter said.

A number of issues must be resolved before relocation of the Children's Center to St. Bede's is finalized: Renovations must be completed to meet current code and licensing requirements; zoning permits must be obtained; and a use agreement between the Foundation, university, state and Children's Center must be approved. The intent is to complete all of these tasks before the Children's Center's current space in Campus School must be vacated, Thesing-Ritter said.

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MR/JP

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