San Damiano Monona

Frequently asked questions

Background and timeline

What was the city’s timeline in deciding to purchase the San Damiano property?

On March 3, 2020, the owners of the property gave the city four months to determine whether it could gather sufficient resources to purchase the property. The deadline was extended by two months due to COVID-19. On September 8, the city council voted unanimously to purchase the property for $8.6 million and control the future of the property.

When will the city actually own the San Damiano property?

The City of Monona will close on the San Damiano property June 1, 2021. At that point, the city will legally own the property.

Will the public be allowed to visit San Damiano once the city owns it on June 1, 2021?

Yes, the city and the Friends of San Damiano look forward to the public being able to experience this one-of-a-kind property not too long after we close.  However, as the grounds and house have been neglected for a few years, Monona Parks and Recreation will be leading the effort to clean up the grounds and secure the house prior to any opening. 

Thank you for your patience as we conduct this important work; we want it to be safe for everyone to enjoy. Please sign up to receive updates from the Friends regarding progress and any opening activities.

I'm interested in San Damiano, how can I help?

The city and the Friends of San Damiano are very grateful to many in our community who are supportive of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to preserve this iconic property for all to enjoy. At the moment, you can be most helpful by:

  • Donating
  • Signing up to receive regular updates
  • Sharing the link to this web site with family, friends and colleagues
  • Liking San Damiano Monona on Facebook and/or Instagram

As we progress, we expect there will be other ways to help, all of which we’ll share via these channels. If you have a specific skill or way in which you’d like to be helpful now, please contact us at info@sandamianomonona.com.

The purchase

What is the purchase price?

The city signed a purchase agreement for $8.6 million.

What is the appraised value of the property?

In 2011, the property was appraised at $10.3 million. In 2016, it was appraised at $8.6 million. In 2020, the property was appraised at $9.82 million.

You can view the 2020 appraisal on the City of Monona website.

Where can I see a copy of the 2020 appraisal?

The 2020 appraisal of the San Damiano property is available on the City of Monona's website, at http://www.mymonona.com/DocumentCenter/View/11255/San-Damiano-Property-Appraisal.

How will the city pay for the property?

The city is seeking other public funds to supplement the city funds that will be used to purchase the property. $2 million has already been secured from Dane County towards the purchase. Funds being pursued from the State of Wisconsin include grants through the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program and the Land and Water Conservation Fund. The city is also partnering with the Friends of San Damiano to reach out to individuals, foundations, and other organizations who have an interest in protecting and preserving this property.

What will happen if the city cannot secure additional funds for the purchase?

At this point, the city controls the future of the property and has secured time to make the right decision.  Developing a plan for the property will inform the long-term financial impact to the city and ultimately the city will need to make a decision about whether it can afford to maintain the property as a city asset or go another direction.

Feasibility study

Who was hired for the feasibility study, and when?

On March 16, 2020, the city council voted to retain David Allen and Development for Conservation, LLC, a sole proprietorship, to conduct a feasibility study on what level of private support might be available to aid in purchasing the San Damiano property.

What was the purpose of the feasibility study?

The city retained Development for Conservation to test the feasibility of raising $12,000,000 privately to protect San Damiano as a public asset. Particularly, the study focused on individuals willing to make private financial commitments.

What was the conclusion of the feasibility study?

There were nine conclusions reached in the report, three of them were central to the city’s decision to purchase the property.

  • First, while challenging, it stated a campaign of $1.5 million was feasible.
  • Second, it also reinforced the desire by residents that the city needed to find a way to save San Damiano from development.
  • Finally, it stressed that the only way to do so and control the fate of the property is by owning it.

View the full report

The project

What is the timeline for feedback and the master planning process?

The timeline is flexible and dependent on fundraising. The city will close on the property on June 1, 2021. Until that time, visitors are not allowed on the property. After this date, we encourage residents and broader community members to experience the property, for most of whom it will be the very first time ever. It is a truly unique property. Once there is an appropriate amount of time for guests to walk the grounds, see the views, and take in its beauty and potential use, the city and Friends would envision starting the master planning process, which includes community input. Depending on the Friends' successful fundraising, master planning could begin as soon as the Fall of 2021 and take anywhere from 18-24 months.

How can I share my feedback or ideas?

Right now, you can email info@sandamianomonona.org. At a later date, there will be a specific process to provide input, including listening sessions, online forms, etc.

Is there a Steering Committee for this project?

The city, in coordination with the Friends, will establish a project steering committee for the San Damiano property. Its task will be to guide the city through the master planning process, with the assistance of a professional, and ultimately define any actions and improvements to the property.

Why not start the public engagement process now?

Public engagement is one of the most critical elements of the future planning process for San Damiano. The intent is to conduct a robust community engagement process, in conjunction with a master planning process. Right now, the city and Friends of San Damiano are formalizing a relationship, preparing to launch a project steering team and raising funds to begin the process.

Will the house on San Damiano be restored?

We don’t know. While the historic manor on San Damiano was designated a Monona landmark in 1979, it is in significant disrepair. In 2007, it was also determined by the Wisconsin Historical Society that it is not eligible for state or national landmark status, its interior and exterior having been extensively altered since its construction in 1894. A full assessment of the condition of the house will be commissioned by the city prior to beginning the master planning process.

Does the property's presence on the Wisconsin Archaeological Inventory impact any potential development and master plan?

Yes. Its presence on the State inventory is due to Ho-Chunk ancestral mounds that may have once been on the property and the potential of burial remains, all of which are protected by State statute.  The city will commission an archaeological survey prior to beginning the master planning process.

Friends of San Damiano

Why was the Friends of San Damiano created?

Knowing the city did not have the capacity to fundraise at a larger level required by the size and cost of this property, this nonprofit was established to provide a tax-exempt organization to accept gifts and the people power to make this effort a success.

Does the city have other "Friends" groups?

Yes. There are similar groups like the Friends of San Damiano, including the Friends of the Monona Public Library, Friends of the Senior Center, Monona Public Library Foundation, Friends of WVMO, etc.

What is the purpose of the Friends of San Damiano?

The purpose of the Friends is to garner financial resources for the purchase, master planning, property improvements and maintenance of the property. It is the city’s goal that the San Damiano property be self-sustaining. Aside from the purchase and surveys of the property, the Friends must raise any other necessary funds needed.

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