St. Benedict’s Abbey is a Catholic, Benedictine monastery located in Atchison, Kansas, and operates as the home for monks who serve as faculty or administrators of Benedictine College. The abbey, directly adjacent to the college, is a confined, private community for the monks and includes chapels, recreational spaces, and a great hall for dining.
The abbey relies on income generated from the property to help sustain the campus. To ensure their property remains sustainable well into the future, abbey officials hired Olsson Studio to develop a master plan for the main and south properties of the campus, which will serve as a guidebook to help the monastery make appropriate decisions regarding selling, keeping, and developing the property.
Fortunately, the Olsson Studio team is expert at developing master plans for this kind of property.
To kick off the project, we led a visioning process with abbey staff and stakeholders from the City of Atchison and the college. During this three-day session, we facilitated discussions and interactive exercises to identify project goals and direction for land use plans and design concepts. The session also included a design charrette that generated creative ideas and solutions for future land use efforts. Our team also explored design solutions that addressed current conditions, community needs, and land use and zoning codes.
A key goal for abbey officials is to create a senior living development and student housing on the main campus that can provide the abbey with a steady revenue stream. The development will allow people to move back to Atchison near the abbey to reconnect with the community as they age and will play a role in connecting two distinct age groups.
The goal for the main campus is to create recreation and tourism opportunities that will bring more visitors to the abbey. Concept ideas include a visitor center, a wine- and beer-tasting venture, which is unique to the abbey and provides opportunities for people to see, experience, and understand the abbey and its history. In addition, the master plan includes a retreat area where companies or private individuals can rent meeting spaces and cabins. Because the property is located near the Missouri River, there’s a recreational component that connects to city parks and a trail system.
A unique feature to the campus is the limestone mines underneath a portion of the property. At first, abbey officials hoped to lease out the abandoned mines for industrial storage. However, our team determined the mines were unstable and not feasible for this type of investment opportunity.
Not to be deterred, our team came up with a creative idea to incorporate that space into the final plan. Our proposal? Remove a portion of the roof to create an opportunity for rock climbing, rappelling, and other adventure activities on the exposed limestone walls. This solution would lower costs to stabilize the roof, increase the allure of the area as a recreational destination, and bring back revenue for the abbey.
For the south property, we proposed a single-family housing development that can be built over time as people are interested in purchasing lots. The lots range from 1 to 5 acres and can be developed as needed.
Olsson Studio provided master planning, visioning, engagement, and design charrette services, as well as floodplain and utility analysis and a mine review. We also performed an economic and housing feasibility study to understand and determine possible uses for the campus.
We provided our services on time and within budget. The master plan is completed, and the abbey has started to implement Phase I of the plan. The final master plan determines how to maintain the site and sustain and fund the abbey’s needs over the next 100 years. We successfully provided opportunities for future funding to keep the organization and property successful for years to come.
Photo credit: St. Benedict's Abbey
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