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Two years ago, Capri Senior Communities set out to replace a beloved community church and adjacent unused buildings with a six-story, senior-care campus and adjoining church. St. Rita’s Church in Milwaukee’s Lower East Side was built in 1939 and was the heart of the Italian American community. The new St. Rita Square was designed to honor that history and sense of community in its design, including the relation of its worship space to residences.
The design of St. Rita Square sought to tie the living spaces easily to the worship space. A full church was to be attached directly to the senior campus. Because the church had a long and treasured history in the community, the new development was to tie into the Sicilian architecture and community appeal of the original church.
The plans originally called for the building to be 100 percent stone, but that couldn’t be supported by the budget. Echelon’s Cordova Stone™ fit within the budget, matched the intent of the design and has the kind of durability required to endure Milwaukee’s four-season climate. What’s more, it’s a product the architect, general contractor and masonry contractor were all very familiar with and had previous success with on other projects. To save time and labor, the architect also chose to use the larger, 12” x 18” Cordova stone at eye level (the bottom three stories) and then moved to the smaller Cordova (8” x 18”) for the higher levels. The reduced size stone also helped show the layering of the architecture, as the horizontal bands separated ‘layers’ of stone. The light-colored Cordova Stone and the horizontal layering of material and banding in this way is influenced by the type of Sicilian architecture the client wanted to reflect in this project. The design of an outdoor courtyard, or piazza, was another key programming component as Italian piazzas are thought of as the heartbeat of Italian towns.
At more than 182,000 square feet, the finished project includes a newly constructed St. Rita Church with 3,600 square feet on the first floor and a lower-level fellowship hall with a servicing kitchen. There are two apartment towers that make up a 118-unit age-restricted senior living community that includes 72 independent living apartments and 46 community-based residential facility/memory support units. Fulfilling one of the critical goals of the project, there is now direct access from the residential area into the church. The new build incorporated many of the stained-glass windows, stonework, a bronze bell and statuaries from the previous churches in the parish. St. Rita Square has a classic look that will forever be in style.