Senior Housing News Awards: Mount Carmel Bluffs

Monday, December 18th, 2023

Pope Design Group is pleased to announce that Mount Carmel Bluffs in Dubuque, Iowa is the winner of the 2023 SHN Architecture & Design Awards for Campus Renovation/Repositioning.

Mount Carmel, the home of the Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary (BVM), was established in 1889 along the beautiful bluffs overlooking the Mississippi River in Dubuque, Iowa.

Through their history, nearly 5,000 women have entered the Sisters of Charity, BVM. There are now more than 200 BVM Sisters, 85% of whom live in Dubuque. With an average age of 84, the Sisters realized they needed help developing their campus and services to provide care for their aging community, while maximizing the 108-acre campus to continue their mission of service to others. The BVM Sisters established a partnership with Presbyterian Homes & Services (PHS) of Minnesota which shared BVM’s faith-based values and vision for creating a full-continuum senior community to best serve the mission of the Sisters, and the greater community.

In addition to creating a living community to support the Sisters and providing non-denominational housing for older Dubuque residents, the goal was to preserve the site’s character and highlight the beauty of its river bluffs setting. Mount Carmel’s original Motherhouse, St. Joseph Convent, is an important piece of Dubuque’s legacy and beloved by the Sisters and local residents. Through the phased redevelopment, the Motherhouse became the heart of the campus – with improved accessibility, renovated amenity spaces for community, worship, wellness, and educational programming.

With the 1800’s era Motherhouse renovated as the centerpiece of the campus, the architectural aesthetic of phased senior living additions embraces the campus’s history with a modern appeal. The goal of the redevelopment was to reorient the main atrium entry, with tall timber framing and expansive glass, to maximize views toward the beautiful Mississippi River bluffs.

The focus and intent of the entire team was to improve the level of care for the Sisters, while also enhancing services to the community, and doing it all in a way that preserves the historical character of the site. Giving new life to the historic Motherhouse was priority, by creating functional links to the new housing and renovating underutilized rooms for new purposes like dining, education and social activities. The focus was also to be good stewards of the environment by preserving many of the existing trees and creating more greenspace and maximized views of the surrounding river bluffs.

Congrats to the Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary and Presbyterian Homes & Services on this recognition.

Visit the SHN Awards website to see more before and after photos of Mount Carmel Bluffs’ repositioning.

The full list of nominees for each category can be found at the link here.


  • Owner/Operator:  Mount Carmel Bluffs, LLC (Partnership of Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary and Presbyterian Homes & Services/Senior Housing Partners)
  • Architect: Pope Design Group
  • Interior Designer: Senior Lifestyle Design
  • General Contractor: Conlon Construction
  • Structural Engineer: IIW PC
  • MEP Engineer: Cain Thomas & Associates
  • Photographer: Saari & Forrai and ToMorrow’s Media