Dear Fenwick Community,

As most of you have undoubtedly heard, the Priory property at Division and Harlem (the old House of Studies) is for sale by Dominican University.  Like many of you, Fenwick views this as a historic opportunity!

Fenwick had informal discussions with now-retired President Donna Carroll from Dominican University (formerly Rosary College) two years ago about this potentiality.  When the pandemic hit, all discussions were put on hold as the Priory was used to house Dominican students.  As the pandemic eased in spring and President Carroll neared the end of her tenure at Dominican, a public process for the sale of the Priory property began.

This sale by Dominican University only includes the buildings and land inside the white outline in the middle of the property, shown below.  Those 7.6 acres include a parcel of land to the east of the buildings, abutting Harlem Ave.  The property for sale does not include any of the current athletic field space that Fenwick leases from the Dominican Province of St. Albert the Great, the central U.S. province of the Dominican Friars.  Fenwick retains a long-term lease on its current athletic fields (to the north and south of the Priory) that would not be affected by this sale.
Two months ago, the Real Estate Committee of Fenwick’s board toured the facility and began its due diligence to assess the property - the state of the buildings, the blueprints of the facilities, the zoning restrictions for the property, etc. - and brainstormed some very preliminary ideas for potential use:
  • Athletic field and/or court space
  • Space for spiritual formation and retreats
  • Space for Fenwick arts and music program
  • Administrative and/or athletic office space
  • Recommissioning the chapel and using it for weddings, baptisms and other liturgical celebrations
  • Space for alumni and parent receptions, gatherings, reunions
These are just a few of the many possible uses that will be fully vetted by a newly formed feasibility committee.  This committee will be charged with envisioning how the Priory space can best be utilized to fulfill Fenwick students’ current and future needs while advancing the Fenwick mission to educate students to “lead, achieve and serve.”

This will be done in concert with the overarching goals of the current facilities master plan and the Centennial Campaign.  If identified needs can be met with space at the Priory, that will be taken into consideration alongside the current master facilities plan, and vice versa.  If the Priory can meet some current or additional needs, what changes, if any will be made to the Centennial Campaign?

The Priory property is currently zoned for educational, recreational and institutional use, and the Village of River Forest strongly prefers to keep it that way and to retain at least the original 1924 Priory building that was designed by the same architect as Fenwick High School, Wilfred E. Anthony.  As a result, potential interest and bidding may be limited, but there is interest.

Last week Fenwick submitted a Letter of Interest (LOI) to Jones Lang LaSalle, the broker representing Dominican University.  Two days later Oak Park River Forest District 200 (the high school) also submitted a LOI.  The LOI commits Fenwick to nothing, but essentially gives us an option to stay in the discussion and continue our due diligence.

This is an opportunity Fenwick cannot ignore.  There is no better natural buyer for this property than Fenwick.  Any other potential buyer would be surrounded by Fenwick fields, which may make for uncomfortable bedfellows in the best of circumstances.  With a friendly landlord for the leased field space, owning the Priory property would also place Fenwick in a position of significant strength if the Province of St. Albert the Great ever decided to sell the current field space.  As we all know, no more land is being made, and that is even more true in Oak Park and River Forest!

Whatever the outcome to all of the above is, purchasing the Priory property and completing the Centennial Campaign – as is or revised – will require significant philanthropic support.  This letter is to inform you that Fenwick is actively pursuing this opportunity, but I also ask you to dream about the possibilities of a “Priory Campus” as part of Fenwick’s second century:

  • Imagine the storied House of Studies being part of Fenwick High School and filled with the vibrant sounds of music or the joyous voices of teenaged singers
  • Imagine a beautiful space for alumni to gather for reunions (not the Boulevard Room!)
  • Imagine a Fenwick athletic complex that accommodates many more of our teams with home-field advantage
  • Imagine leaving a legacy of one Fenwick with its rich Dominican history to generations of future Friars
Please consider making these dreams a reality.

This is our opportunity.  This is our time.  This is our Fenwick.  

With great gratitude,

Fr. Richard Peddicord, O.P.

P.S. Please contact Chris Ritten, V.P. for Institutional Advancement, for how you can help:; 708-948-0350.
Fenwick High School is owned and sponsored by the Dominican Friars of the Province of St. Albert the Great headquartered in Chicago, Illinois.
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