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UWM eyes Columbia Hospital campus

The Columbia St Mary's Hospital campus
The Columbia St Mary's Hospital campus
Courtesy of UWM

MILWAUKEE — The University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee (UWM) has obtained an option to purchase the Columbia St. Mary’s Hospital Campus at a price of $20,155,000 and will ask the State Building Commission to approve the purchase at its Aug. 11, 2010, meeting.

Directly adjacent to UWM’s 92-acre East Side Milwaukee campus, the Columbia St. Mary’s Hospital property, located at 2025 E. Newport Ave., is nearly 11 acres with seven buildings that have 828,000 gross square feet of space. Among the buildings is a five-story parking structure with 788 parking spaces. Surface parking on the property offers another 174 spaces.

“Throughout my tenure at UWM, we have referred to the Columbia St. Mary’s property as the ‘final frontier’ for East Side campus expansion,” said UWM Chancellor Carlos E. Santiago. “I am extremely pleased that UWM and Columbia St. Mary’s have reached an agreement in principle that will make this acquisition possible. It will allow our landlocked campus to partially alleviate an acute need for space and to expand core facilities that will serve future generations of students and community members.”

UW–Milwaukee has nearly 31,000 students enrolled in its 14 schools and colleges. It educates more Wisconsin undergraduate and graduate students than any other university in the state. UWM is also the second most geographically compressed research university in the nation.

Charles Pruitt, President of the University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents, said the acquisition comes at a pivotal time for both the university and the State of Wisconsin.

“This is an exciting day for UWM and the University of Wisconsin System,” Pruitt said. “As UWM has shown significant growth in enrollment and research over the past decade, the Board of Regents and UW System Administration have made a commitment to ensure that the university is equipped to meet its mission of serving the people of Wisconsin. This purchase proposal responds to the state’s critical need to expand and strengthen Wisconsin’s second-largest university, making it possible to better educate our citizens and produce more college graduates who will help build our economy.”

A recently completed Master Plan for UWM outlined a variety of potential uses for the Columbia St. Mary’s property, including student services and academic/instructional space. A state-approved feasibility study of the Columbia St. Mary’s property in 2005 included student housing as a potential use. Since then, the need for university housing has been significantly addressed through the renovation of Kenilworth Square and the construction of RiverView and Cambridge Commons.

When Cambridge Commons opens for the fall 2010 semester, UWM will be able to provide a bed for nearly every incoming new freshman in a university housing facility. As a result, in the immediate future, the need for student housing facilities on the Columbia St. Mary’s property would be less than originally envisioned.

The opportunity for UWM to acquire the Columbia St. Mary’s Hospital Campus results from the consolidation of some operations by Columbia St. Mary’s, an organization comprised of four hospitals, 64 community clinics, Columbia College of Nursing and four Urgent Care centers.

The organization is sponsored by Ascension Health and Columbia Health System. It will be opening an expanded Columbia St. Mary’s Hospital Milwaukee about one mile south of the UWM campus in October 2010. It will be vacating the hospital and related facilities on the property next to the UWM campus by the end of 2010.

The $20,155,000 purchase price was the average of two appraisals of the property. According to state policy, the purchase price of property acquired by a state agency such as UWM can be no more than the average of two appraisals.

If completed, the acquisition will be the largest expansion of the East Side campus since UWM acquired the 43-acre, 14-building Milwaukee-Downer College campus (the land north of Hartford Avenue between Downer and Maryland avenues) in 1964.

The Columbia St. Mary’s campus is one of six projects that make up the UW–Milwaukee Initiative. Three others in advanced stages of development include:

* Construction of a $50 million addition to the Great Lakes WATER Institute (on the east end of Greenfield Avenue, south of downtown Milwaukee) for the new School of Freshwater Sciences, and the building of a showcase facility (on the nearby Reed Street property) for the school’s administrative offices and engineering research laboratories.
* Renovation of Building 7 on the historic Pabst Brewery site in downtown Milwaukee to house UWM’s School of Public Health.
* Construction of the $75 million Kenwood Interdisciplinary Research Center on UWM’s East Side campus.

Capital projects still in the planning stage are the replacement of the Neeskay, the university’s research vessel, and the acquisition and buildout of Innovation Park, UWM’s research park adjacent to the Milwaukee County Medical Complex in Wauwatosa.


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