‘A tremendous asset for the city’: City of Monona agrees to buy historic San Damiano property

PHOTOS: Fall colors
Pictures of the beautiful sunrise the morning of Oct. 26 at Lake Monona bike path.

MONONA, Wis. — The City of Monona has reached an agreement with St. Norbert Abbey of De Pere to purchase the historic San Damiano property for $8.6 million.

The city plans to use the property, which sits on more than 1,000 feet of Lake Monona shoreline, to provide greater public access to the lakefront.

“We are very excited to have reached an agreement with St. Norbert Abbey to purchase the San Damiano property. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for Monona to significantly increase public access to the lakefront and waters of Lake Monona in addition to increasing our public open space,” Monona Mayor Mary O’Connor. “While Monona enjoys more than four miles of shoreline, over eighty percent of Monona residents would not have lake access were it not for our smaller parks and launches. It will be a tremendous asset for the City.”

If the sale is approved by the Vatican, the city is set take ownership in June 2021. Officials are considering a referendum for the April 2021 election to gauge community support before the sale is finalized.

The house that still sits on the property was part of the original farm that was built in the 1880s. The land was given to the Norbertines in 1929, and it was then used as a Norbertine Novitiate and study house. It was later leased to the Capuchin Province of St. Joseph as a retreat home, when it came to be known as San Damiano Friary.

If the sale is approved, the city plans to use public funding from the county and state in addition to funds from the newly created non-profit Friends of San Damiano. The new organization plans to raise money for the site’s master planning and development.

“I’m so happy for Monona. It was truly our one and only chance to save this unique property for everyone to enjoy,” Friends President Andrew Kitslaar said. “The Friends of San Damiano is proud to be a part of a city effort to preserve this green space and we look forward to partnering with the City to envision a wonderful experience for future visitors and raise the necessary resources.”