City to buy old church
Development proposals sought
By Angie Landsverk
The city of Waupaca is buying the former site of St. Mary Magdalene Catholic Church for $100,000, and seeking redevelopment proposals for it.
“The city will close on it this month. The owner of the property wants it off his hands by the end of the year,” said Mayor Brian Smith.
Michael Sannes has owned the property for a number of years.
He lives in California, but has a connection to Waupaca.
Sannes is a Waupaca High School graduate, the mayor said.
“We’ve been working with him probably a couple years to try and get the property moving in a direction, in one way or another. There’s been interest over the years,” Smith said.
Nonprofit groups are among those who showed interest in the building in the past, he said.
The church has been vacant for 15 years, since the parish dedicated its new church on Shadow Road in May 2003.
Waupaca’s common council unanimously voted in favor of buying the former church site when it met on Tuesday, Dec. 4.
The vote followed a closed session on the matter.
Ald. Lori Chesnut was absent.
The property is bordered by Badger, State and Division streets, with senior apartments behind it.
The property is appraised at $239,000, but Sannes is donating a portion of the property’s value ($139,000), reducing the purchase price to $100,000, said Brennan Kane, the city’s director of community and economic development.
“The city is purchasing the property as is. It negotiated a transfer of the property to the adjacent property (senior apartments), who will hold the property as the city continues to identify a prospective developer for the site,” Kane said.
The mayor said the city wants the adjacent property owner to hold the property for the city until its development, so it remains taxable.
There is interest in developing the former church property into a commercial or residential project, Smith said.
“Developers are looking into all options, including whether it is all new construction, or maintaining a portion of the church while building around it,” Kane said.
The city had an open line of communication with Sannes the last few years, and was able to negotiate the purchase, Kane said.
“He wanted it to be done by 2018,” Kane said of Sannes.
The property is among those identified in the city’s downtown master plan as being catalysts for Waupaca’s downtown redevelopment, he said.
“It’s located on one of the gateways to our downtown and community,” Kane said. “As a city, we’re excited and hopeful to have two of the most critically identified sites in the downtown master plan being redeveloped ahead of Main Street in 2021. We’re definitely excited for that.”
The other property he was referring to is the Danes Hall at the end of North Main Street.
Its redevelopment is planned to be completed in January or February, Kane said.
This year, the former site of St. Mary Magadalene was identified as an opportunity for both Sannes and the city, he said.
“It’s something we’ve been working on the last year, trying to get it figured out,” Kane said.
Like the Danes Hall, the structure of the old church is in good shape, he said.
“It’s the cost to retrofit it to building codes that is the challenge,” Kane said.
It needs new windows and most likely a sprinkler system, as well as new HVAC, electrical and plumbing, he said.
“We have had people look at the property over the years,” Kane said. “It would take a significant investment to renovate the church.”
Last summer, the city sent out a Request for Proposals to solicit redevelopment ideas for the site.
The city sent it throughout the state and did identify a couple developers interested in it, he said.
He said the city will continue to evaluate development proposals.
“It is identified in the master plan as a key property for redevelopment,” Kane said. “The city wanted to seize the opportunity and control the development of the property long term.”