Community & real estate master planning helps religious community support needs of aging Sisters

The client: Benedictine Sisters of Chicago

In the Rogers Park neighborhood of Chicago, the Benedictine Sisters of Chicago built their monastery and convent in 1906 and St. Scholastica Academy, a girls K-12 school that became the Sisters’ main ministry, in 1907. A new school building, chapel, and elder care facility were added to the 14-acre campus throughout the following decades.

The challenge: Ministry, community, and real estate planning for the future

In 2011, facing declining enrollment at St. Scholastica, financial sustainability questions, and healthcare and residential concerns for their aging members, the Sisters determined they needed expert guidance to assist them in addressing three categories of their community:


  • Were the Sisters able to continue subsidizing St. Scholastica Academy annually after years of unsuccessful efforts to increase enrollment?


  • Could the community’s healthcare needs continue to be served in a quality and economical manner in their private existing facilities operated by the Sisters on site?
  • Could new licensed, professionally operated elder care facilities, and senior living residences, be developed by others on the land that allowed the Sisters to both live in community and satisfy their care needs (and the public’s as well)?
  • Should they look to live elsewhere altogether?

Real Estate

  • What were realistic repurpose options for all or parts of the campus?
  • What was necessary to prepare the property for transition?

These options would need to be studied carefully before any decisions could be made.

The solution: Expert advice from Plante Moran Real Estate Investment Advisors

The Sisters engaged Plante Moran Real Estate Investment Advisors (PMREIA) to investigate all practical considerations and options within the context of the Sisters’ best interests and preferences, market realities, and community financial realities.

Our team first gathered and analyzed community demographic information, operational costs, capital needs, high-level TRENDS® information, St. Scholastica Academy operating information and all basic information regarding the monastery and property. Then, we performed necessary property due diligence, including zoning/land use analysis, title, survey, environmental, facilities condition assessment, and a senior living market study. This was all done to understand the condition of the property and any limitations on its use. We then had in-depth conversations with the Leadership team, and community as a whole, for their preferences regarding healthcare and residential options and alternate uses for the property.

The benefit: Realistic, cost-effective decisions for present and future needs

Soon after the community and St. Scholastica Academy financial and operational studies were completed, a decision was made by the Sisters in March 2012 to close the Academy at the end of the 2011-2012 school year. The Sisters also engaged PMREIA to find a replacement tenant. PMREIA conducted an RFP process that resulted in proposals from three qualified parties. The chosen tenant signed a 10-year lease and opened in August 2012 for the 2012-2013 school year. The tenant is in its ninth lease year. The new lease rent, and relief from the school operating expenses, have significantly improved the Sisters’ financial outlook.

After much study and collaboration with the Sisters, PMREIA presented alternative residential and elder care scenarios, as well as property redevelopment market opportunities, that addressed both community needs and preferences and market realities. The Benedictine Sisters of Chicago community members have chosen to pursue redevelopment opportunities with buyer/developers that return market value for the land with uses that benefit the community and offer the possibility of modern housing and healthcare facilities for the Sisters and the public. PMREIA is in the process of implementing the overall plan on behalf of the Sisters through completion.

If your religious community is considering its plans for the future and would like help assessing the community’s real estate in support of that cause, we’re here to help. You can learn more about our real estate consulting services on our website or contact us directly for a free consultation:

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