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Monona City Council approves borrowing $8.5M to buy San Damiano Friary
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Monona City Council approves borrowing $8.5M to buy San Damiano Friary

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San Damiano Friary

The city of Monona is proceeding with plans to buy the San Damiano Friary.

The Monona City Council on Monday unanimously approved borrowing $8.5 million to buy the historic San Damiano Friary property along Lake Monona.

The approval paves the way for Monona to close on the property June 1 and open up the private green space to the public.

With more than 1,000 feet of lake frontage, the 10-acre wooded area, home to the 1888 Frank Allis House, is one of the last largely undeveloped pieces of property on Lake Monona.

Monona struck a deal last year with the Saint Norbert Abbey, which has owned the parcel for decades, to buy the prime real estate for $8.6 million. The city has already paid a $100,000 down payment.

Although the city will issue $8.5 million in bonds for the purchase, it expects to receive donations to buy down the bonds and decrease the impact on Monona taxpayers.

Just last week, Dane County’s Park Commission unanimously recommended putting $2 million in county funding toward the project. That money still needs to be approved by the County Board.

A group called the Friends of San Damiano was formed in July 2020 to help the city raise funds. Friends of San Damiano President Andrew Kitslaar said private donors have already reached out to his group wanting to contribute.

In the coming weeks, the Monona City Council will consider an agreement with the Friends of San Damiano to formalize their partnership and determine fundraising responsibilities.

Once the city takes ownership, parks staff plan to lead an initial cleanup of the green space, including tree trimming, brush clearing and the addition of some benches and picnic tables, said Maggie Baum, a spokesperson for Friends of San Damiano. After that, residents should be able to explore the property.

Baum said the space is “a mini arboretum teeming with wildlife, with unmatched environmental, historical, cultural and recreational value.”

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