Ann McGlynn

A sunny porch on the historic Petersen Mansion will be perfect for a game of cards.

The ornate fireplaces will be good places to gather around for conversation.

And the upstairs of the mansion will be home to agencies that can assist the senior citizens who will be living just a few steps away at the new Marycrest Senior Campus.

The closed Marycrest International University campus — once a home to young adults — will open today as what Quad-City developer Chris Ales hopes will be a comfortable home for senior citizens.

The affordable housing — units for low- to moderate-income seniors range from $314 to $95 a month — is transforming a college campus that closed in the spring of 2002.

Dorm rooms are now apartments with a view of the Mississippi River or the tree-lined campus. Administration offices and classrooms will be transformed, too. Petersen Hall will be devoted to assisted living. Petersen Mansion will be the community center, complete with a beauty salon and computer center.

The Sisters of Humility built the school. Some of the sisters will be the senior campus' first residents.

‘They built and formed this college," Ales said. "Now they get to retire here."

Marycrest's past

The last graduating class of Marycrest International University walked across the stage in 2002. The ceremony was the end of a long-standing school with a storied history.

Marycrest College opened in 1939 as a higher education institution for Catholic women. The school was founded by the sisters from the Congregation of the Humility of Mary.

Bishop Henry Rohlman asked Mother Mary Geraldine Upham and the sisters to establish the school.

Rohlman Hall will be the first to open its doors on the Marycrest Senior Campus. Upham Hall — which served as the school's administration center — also will become an apartment building. One of the best views of the river is on the third floor.

More than 60 years ago, the college acquired the 7 1/2- acre estate of Max D. Petersen for $5,000.

Now, Petersen Mansion will be the community center for the seniors. Petersen Hall eventually will house assisted-living residents.

The college opened with 76 students and 21 teachers. The school became co-educational in 1969.

Marycrest affiliated with Teikyo in 1990. Its name changed to Teikyo Marycrest University and then became Marycrest International University.

The school closed its doors under that name after its second accreditation probation in seven years.

The name on the sign at the entrance now is Marycrest Senior Campus.

It was important to keep Marycrest in the name, Ales said.

Marycrest's future

The alumni have a homecoming celebration, a newsletter and a Web site — — said Janet Miller, the president of the alumni association. A $500 scholarship for an eligible student volunteer was presented to the Sisters of Humility housing program at the 2003 homecoming celebration.

The campus eventually will be available for the school's alumni board meetings, she said.

"Who would have thought that the Marycrest community would have the option to go back to the campus eventually and live throughout our retirement years?" she said.

Eighty-one units will be finished in the first phase, Ales said. He has received 91 applications for those apartments so far. The majority of the units have income restrictions, but not all.

Each apartment has a kitchen, bathroom and a clothes washer and dryer. Studio, one-bedroom and two-bedroom units are available. Each apartment takes up the space of four to five dorm rooms.

A second phase of apartments is planned. Walsh Hall will house independent living units. Petersen Hall will have 50 assisted-living units for less than $1,000 a month.

The recreation center has been leased to an organization that hosts sporting events, Ales said. The nursing building will become office space. Plans for the library are not yet set, he said.

Clifton Manor, the other mansion on campus, will be made into a single-family home, he said. Who will live there? Ales smiled. Probably him and his wife.

A sister from the Sisters of Humility is helping him coordinate the efforts for this and his other senior housing units. Ales' most recent historic project in the Quad-Cities was the renovation of the old St. Katharine's School into senior housing.

Ales had just finished with St. Katharine's Living Center when he heard the announcement of Marycrest's closure. Almost exactly two years after that, the transformation is complete.

The campus logo uses the Marycrest motto: "Bonitas. Veritas. Pulchritas."

"It fit into what we do: develop decent affordable housing," he said while sitting on the east porch of Petersen Mansion. "We have a penchant for historic properties."

Ann McGlynn can be contacted at (563) 383-2336 or