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Saint Leo University buys Benedictine Sisters' property

ST. LEO — Saint Leo University announced a deal Wednesday to buy the Holy Name Monastery and five other buildings from the Benedictine Sisters of Florida. The buildings and the land, totaling 37 acres, sold for $3.9 million.

The 16 sisters who inhabit the three-story monastery will move to a new facility that will be built across the street. That facility is scheduled to open in February 2014.

The deal was announced Wednesday morning at a ceremonial signing by Saint Leo University president Arthur Kirk and Sister Roberta Bailey, prioress for the Benedictine Sisters of Florida.

"The university's plans are unspecific at this point, but we intend to maintain the integrity and unity of the property," Kirk said. "The monastery has good bones with the capacity for renovation for multiple purposes."

While the university hasn't announced specific plans for the land, the growth of the campus comes as no surprise. Enrollment is booming, and Saint Leo has added several other facilities in the past couple of years, including two new residence halls, expanded sports facilities and a 50,000-square-foot building housing the School of Business.

Over the next few months, the university will begin crafting a master plan for the 11-acre monastery, along with the other pieces of land south of State Road 52.

In the meantime, the sisters will remain in their quarters as renters (with a $1 annual lease) until they move into their new facility, which they will own and maintain. Still, the plan to uproot them from the 40-year-old monastery wasn't an easy sell.

"At the beginning of negotiations last spring it was a challenge to gain approval from our sisters," said Sister Bailey. "Today everyone is on board, and some are more excited than others about a new residence."

Zielinski Companies, a real estate planning and management consultant to nonprofits, provided guidance on the deal between the university and the Benedictine Sisters.

"We've always operated in the black," Sister Bailey said. "We received full approval from our Federation of Saint Scholastica and from our 23 mother house councils and president."

The Benedictine Sisters have budgeted $2.7 for construction of their new 30,000-square-foot home, while their director of mission advancement, Faith Pridmore, expects to launch a special gifts campaign in January to furnish the interior.

Architectural firm Klar and Klar of Clearwater will design the project with "a swift schedule," according to partner Roberta Klar.

"We held a 'charette,' a brainstorming session with the sisters on Labor Day," Klar said. "On Thursday we'll present some preliminary ideas to incorporate suggestions of open sight lines, respect of land, and communion with music and nature."

"We expect the facility to be private with individual beds and baths," Sister Bailey said. "But we won't be isolated. We expect to continue our ministry work on campus and in the community."

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction: As part of the sale of the Holy Name Monastery to Saint Leo University, the Benedictine Sisters will pay $1 annual rent to remain in their current quarters until moving into their new facility, which the sisters will own and maintain. The original version of this article was incorrect on the rental and ownership arrangements.

Saint Leo University buys Benedictine Sisters' property 10/03/12 [Last modified: Friday, October 5, 2012 9:21am]

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