FREMONT -- New construction projects are in the works to provide better housing for Catholic nuns in separate orders residing in the Mission San Jose district.
One proposal, from the Dominican Sisters of Mission San Jose, would give nuns a bigger residential space, while the other, from the Sisters of the Holy Family, would involve the sale of some property to a private home developer.
The Dominican Sisters of Mission San Jose have proposed several projects budgeted for a total of $20 million on its 26-acre property at 43326 Mission Blvd., which 66 nuns call home. The congregation has resided there since 1891.
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The main project calls for the demolition and rebuilding of St. Joseph Priory, a 30,000-square-foot priory built in 1964, said Margaret McCarthy, the Dominican Sisters' development director. It is two stories high and has more than 40 rooms, but they are small -- 10 feet by 12 feet -- and the 24 nuns living there must share bathrooms at the end of each hall.
The new two-story priory will be 53,000 square feet, and two of its three wings will house 36 nuns, offering larger bedrooms and a shared living room and dining room. The third wing will be the Dominican Center, a new facility offering a fitness and health area, as well as community rooms available for conferences and community arts enrichment programs.
The Dominican sisters also aim to renovate the Siena building, where they will partner with Alzheimer's Services of the East Bay to provide programs for about 50 people.
"The Dominican Sisters were founded to help the sick, poor and vulnerable, and this is a growing segment of the population," McCarthy said.
Plans are in the preliminary stages, but they hope to break ground on those projects sometime later this year, she said.
Meanwhile, the Sisters of the Holy Family are planning to make wholesale changes to their property, a nearly 15-acre parcel they have called home since 1949.
Called the Palmdale Estate, it is near the intersection of Washington Boulevard and Bryant Terrace, about a block from the Dominican Sisters, said Joel Pullen, a Fremont planner. The pastoral property includes the congregation's Mother House and two historic homes.
The Sisters of the Holy Family plan to sell all the land to Robson Homes, a developer that would build 100 for-profit homes on a nearly 4-acre parcel. They also would construct 45 smaller housing units in three buildings on a nearly 3-acre parcel, where the congregation's nuns would live.
Messages left for the Sisters of the Holy Family and Robson Homes this week were not returned.
Robson Homes also aims to restore and sell the Starr House and the Best House, two homes built on the property in 1927. The houses enjoy historic status, Pullen said, and any plans to alter them will be reviewed by the city's Historical Architectural Review Board. The Planning Commission and City Council then vote on the proposal, Pullen said.
The Mother House, constructed in the 1950s, does not have historic status, Pullen said.
More than 5 acres would be set aside as "private open space and preserved into perpetuity," Robson Homes said in documents submitted to the city.
The Sisters of the Holy Family decided to sell the land because of the costs of maintaining "14.8 acres of landscaped gardens, trees and the two historic homes," according to city documents.
Contact Chris De Benedetti at 510-353-7011. Follow him at Twitter.com/cdebenedetti.