Updates on Mulva Cultural Center and Other De Pere Projects

The $80 million development of the cultural center in downtown De Pere is on track, and its scope is further defined with initial center leadership named. The cultural center is planned to fit with other Mulva family-funded downtown projects, including Notre Dame of De Pere school, St. Francis Xavier Parish Hall and church, and Front Street developments.

Today marks another milestone in the advancement of the Mulva Cultural Center with the naming of leaders who will take the project from planning to fruition. The Mulva Cultural Center Board of Directors has hired both a chief executive officer and a chief operations officer.

Michael (Mike) Van Asten has been named CEO. A visionary entrepreneur and developer, Van Asten has served as a consultant on the Mulva Cultural Center project for the past three years since its inception. The board also selected Dan McKenna, an experienced organizational and educational leader, as its President and COO. Jim Mulva will continue as the center’s Board Chairman.

Van Asten is a 35-year veteran of the hospitality industry. His experience includes creating, developing, owning and operating supermarkets, casual to fine dining restaurants, banquet and conference centers, hotels, and mixed-use urban developments. He is an owner and managing partner of Hilton Hotels and founder and president of Incredible Edibles Inc., which has created such diverse concepts as the Sandwich Factory restaurants, Grand American Cafés, Incredible Edibles Corporate Catering and Liberty Hall Conference Center.

Van Asten, an Appleton resident, has served on countless boards for the community, arts and hospitality in Northeastern Wisconsin and throughout the country. Locally, he has volunteered on the Appleton Art Center Board of Directors, the Wisconsin Restaurant Association and the Fox Cities Convention & Visitors Bureau Board of Directors. Van Asten also serves on the Milwaukee Public Museum Executive Board of Directors, the Bergstrom-Mahler Museum of Glass Board of Directors and the Little Chute Windmill Board of Directors. Other local commitments include the Bellin College Board of Trustees and 19 years of service on the St. Norbert College Board of Trustees, for which he was Chairman the past four years.

“Now is the perfect time for me to participate in this capstone project of my career,” Van Asten says. “I understand the Mulvas’ vision for the Cultural Center and their passion for De Pere. They have contributed significantly to education, faith-based nonprofits, and, now, to the advancement of downtown De Pere.” Van Asten adds, “I am honored by their trust in me and look forward to applying my 35 years of experience in hospitality development to the Mulva Cultural Center.” Van Asten will assume his new position April 1, 2020.

McKenna resides in Austin, Texas, where he’s the Head of School at St. Gabriel’s Catholic School. Serving over 400 students from ages 4-14, St. Gabriel’s was founded in 1999 as an independent Catholic educational institution. Since 2013, McKenna has led all functions of the school on its 32-acre campus, including budgeting, curriculum creation, fundraising, and facilities development.

McKenna is a graduate of Marquette University in Milwaukee and Loyola University in Chicago. He started his career as a middle school teacher at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Academy in Chicago. He went on to teach Latin at Archbishop Quigley Preparatory Seminary High School in Chicago, ultimately becoming Dean of Students. In 2008, McKenna was hired as the Principal of St. Francis Xavier School in Wilmette, Illinois. During his five years there, McKenna updated curricula, repurposed and leveraged school infrastructure, and advanced enrollment. McKenna is also involved with Catholic Extension, a nonprofit organization that supports the needs of Catholics in the most deprived regions of the United States. He is a board member of the Independent Schools Association of the Southwest (ISASW) and has served on the board of the Katelle Foundation, an Austin, Texas, nonprofit.

“I am honored to be asked by Miriam and Jim Mulva to carry out their plans for the Mulva Cultural Center,” McKenna says. “This is an opportunity to further advance the educational and experiential learning pursuits for people of all ages. The Mulva Cultural Center will be a beacon of knowledge and, as the Mulvas describe, a source generating intellectual curiosity. Certainly, that’s at the core of what I have committed to in my life’s work.”

McKenna, his wife Talleri and two children will relocate to the Green Bay area next spring once he transitions from his current position. The McKenna family is familiar with Northeast Wisconsin, as they have a home in Door County and family in Neenah. McKenna’s wife is also a graduate of Marquette University. “We look forward to coming back to the region that has long felt to us like home,” Dan McKenna says. He will assume his new position July 1, 2020.

Mulva Cultural Center On Track

In May 2019, the Mulva Cultural Center Board announced that Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, LLP (SOM) would lead the architectural design for a facility in downtown De Pere. Since that time, SOM, a world-renowned architectural and urban planning firm, has continued to refine the project’s design from the original conceptual renderings. An updated rendering is available for public viewing on the Mulva Cultural Center website,

Another major step in the advancement of the project includes work with leadership at the City of De Pere to ultimately obtain the required approvals for construction. Rick Bilotto with the Premier Resources Group at Sizemore & Company, LLC now serves as the owner’s representative managing the pre-construction phase of the Mulva Cultural Center. The Boldt Company from Appleton has also been hired to assist with pre-construction activities to ensure that all details will be completed to formally submit the project to appropriate De Pere city officials for approval in early 2020. While a general contractor has not yet been selected, the preliminary schedule envisions the start of excavation in late spring 2020 with construction completion by fall 2022.

The refined project scope of the 75,000-square-foot Mulva Cultural Center is now $80 million. The entire project will be funded through a gift made possible by the Mulvas to the De Pere Cultural Foundation, a nonprofit Wisconsin entity organized to own and operate the Mulva Cultural Center.

New Notre Dame of De Pere School and St. Francis Xavier Parish Hall

The Mulvas are also funding the construction of a new elementary and middle school at Notre Dame of De Pere and a new St. Francis Xavier Parish Hall, also in De Pere. This project includes cosmetic renovations to the existing St. Francis Xavier Church. The total project cost is $28 million.

The 87,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art school, which will become the merged campus for the Notre Dame elementary and middle schools, is on schedule and on budget. The doors are planned to open in time for next school year beginning in August 2020. Miron Construction Co. Inc. of Neenah is managing the construction of the project, and GROTH Design Group serves as the school’s architect.

Miron and GROTH are also designing and building the new St. Francis Xavier Parish Hall, which will replace the Father Tony Dolski Parish Center. In exchange for the new parish facilities, the sites of the current Notre Dame Middle School and the parish center will be transferred to the De Pere Cultural Foundation for use as landscaped areas and parking for the Mulva Cultural Center and St. Francis Xavier Church. 

De Pere’s ‘Front Street Project’

In 2018, the City of De Pere’s Cultural District Master Plan outlined options for advancing the east side of downtown De Pere into an arts and cultural district. The master plan called for a combination of public spaces, community arts, restaurants, shops and residential experiences that engage with the riverfront and are conducive to the historic nature of De Pere.

In April this year, downtown De Pere witnessed a devastating fire that destroyed key properties on Broadway, leaving this portion of the block with an uncertain future until now. The Mulvas have secured the ownership of a substantial part of this block, commonly referred by the City of De Pere as the “Front Street Project.” This site covers property from the current Claude Allouez Bridge north to the original De Pere bridge location at George Street and from the riverfront east to Broadway. The Tile & Stone Gallery at 126 S. Broadway and the parking controlled by the city are not included.

The Mulvas intend to redevelop this block in a way that is consistent with the city’s Cultural District Master Plan. Most of 2020 will be used to create and select direction for the project. Van Asten, who will serve as CEO of the Mulva Cultural Center, will separately oversee this project. Van Asten and his associates were instrumental in assisting with property acquisition and will be active participants in redevelopment initiatives. Later this winter, plans for the site include its clearing for eventual development. Most businesses and residents previously occupying the site have now vacated the area following the fire. Due to the preliminary conceptual thoughts for redevelopment, there are currently no estimates for capital investments.

 White Pillars Museum

As previously announced, the Mulvas have made a commitment to the renovation and expansion of the De Pere Historical Society’s White Pillars Museum, 403 N. Broadway, in downtown De Pere. Options at one time included having the museum within the Mulva Cultural Center; however, further analysis showed the positive cumulative impact that the two projects could have on the city by separately framing the north and south ends of historic Broadway. The Mulvas will be the lead sponsor for the White Pillars Museum redevelopment.

St. Norbert College

To date, the Mulva family has committed approximately $40 million to St. Norbert College in De Pere. This commitment has been primarily directed to three large, multi-year projects in addition to funding “The Conversion” bronze sculpture at the north entrance to the college. These projects include lead gifts for the new library, the new science building and the new fitness and sports center. Original funding commitments for the Mulva Family Fitness & Sports Center project, signed in early 2016, included annual payments that will be completed in 2022. Miriam Mulva served on the St. Norbert Board of Trustees for 16 years. Since 2016, the Mulvas have not made any new commitments to St. Norbert College, and no additional gifts to the college are planned at this time.

Mulva Family

Miriam (Brozyna) Mulva grew up in De Pere. A graduate of St. Norbert College, she has always been an active volunteer wherever she and her husband have lived, primarily in Oklahoma, Texas and London, England. She is most active in her faith and philanthropic initiatives. 

James (Jim) Mulva is also a De Pere native and a graduate of the University of Texas, BBA and MBA. He is a former naval officer and the retired Chairman and CEO of Phillips Petroleum Company and ConocoPhillips. Jim has served on the boards of General Motors, General Electric and Statoil. He currently serves on the board of Green Bay Packaging Company and MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston.

De Pere Cultural Foundation/Mulva Cultural Center Board

The design, construction and ongoing operations of the Mulva Cultural Center will be financed by the De Pere Cultural Foundation from contributions made by Miriam and Jim Mulva and/or grants from the Mulva Family Foundation. The project is being managed by the De Pere Cultural Foundation and its Board of Directors.

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