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Home / Commercial Construction / BMO Harris to have 25-story office tower in heart of Milwaukee (UPDATE)

BMO Harris to have 25-story office tower in heart of Milwaukee (UPDATE)

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The construction of a 25-story office building near Milwaukee’s city hall for BMO Harris Bank will extend the city’s current boom building at least to 2020 and put local workforce-development officials under even more pressure to bring workers into the trades to combat a persistent labor shortage.

BMO bank officials joined the developer Mark Irgens at the 833 East building near Milwaukee’s lakefront on Thursday to announce details of the project. The new BMO building will stand next to the bank’s current 21-story building, near the corner of Milwaukee’s Water and Wells streets. Irgens said the nearly 360,000-square-foot, 335-foot-tall project has a total budget of about $137 million.

The new building will go up on a site now occupied by a 7-story parking structure. Irgens said demolition work is scheduled to start there in 2017 and the new BMO building will be opened by the end of 2019.

He said he has been working with a contractor, which he declined to name, and is now talking to other companies that might be interested in the project. Irgens said the architect he has enlisted is Milwaukee-based Kahler Slater and that he has committed to ensuring local residents are employed in putting up the new building.

Because the BMO structure is not receiving public money, it will not be subject to the same hiring requirements that have been attached to projects like the new headquarters tower Northwestern Mutual is putting up downtown. Instead, Irgens will do what he did with the recently completed 833 East office building on Michigan Street and commit to employing as many local residents as possible, including minorities.

“When you look at this, you will have a pretty much all-Milwaukee project,” he said Thusday.

Irgens also plans to find a new use for the existing BMO building. He said the possibilities include a hotel of some sort or multi-family residences.

He said the structure’s floors are smaller than many developers would nowadays want for offices, although some sort of office use might still be found for some of the space. However the building is repurposed, Irgens said, the work won’t start until BMO can move out in early 2020.

Jud Snyder, president of BMO Harris’ equipment finance company, said about 700 employees would be coming over from the existing building. They would be joined by roughly 200 more who now work at the Milwaukee Center high-rise at 111 E. Kilbourn Ave.

The first floor of the new building will have space for both a BMO bank branch and retail. Parts of the first eight floors will also be set aside for nearly 600 parking stalls.

Also moving over will be 235 employees of the Michael Best & Friedrich law firm, which is now housed in offices at 100 East Wisconsin Avenue. The BMO Harris and Michael Best employees are expected to take up about 51 percent of the building, leaving about 178,000 square feet for other tenants.

Danielle Bergner, a managing partner at Michael Best, Michael Best officials decided to move out of the firm’s current building at 100 East Wisconsin after finding that they needed a more up-to-date space to offer employees various health programs and similar amenities.

BMO’s current 21-story, 280,500-square-foot building at 770 N. Water St. dates to the late 1960s. It originally housed Marshall & Ilsley Corp., a banking corporation that was acquired by BMO Harris in 2011.

The existing BMO building lost an important tenant this spring when the Godfrey & Kahn law firm moved out to take up residence at the 833 East office building.

About Dan Shaw, dan.shaw@dailyreporter.com

Dan Shaw is the associate editor at The Daily Reporter. He can be reached at dan.shaw@dailyreporter.com or at 414-225-1807.

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