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Northwestern Mutual tower construction timeline

A crew installs a section of the curtain wall at the Northwestern Mutual Tower project in Milwaukee on July 26. The curtain wall is being built almost entirely by workers who had been certified through the city’s Residents Preference Program. (Staff photo by Kevin Harnack)

A crew installs a section of the curtain wall at the Northwestern Mutual Tower project in Milwaukee on July 26. The curtain wall is being built almost entirely by workers who had been certified through the city’s Residents Preference Program. (File photo by Kevin Harnack)

Now that the focus of the Northwestern Mutual Tower and Commons has shifted to landscaping and interior work, officials with the insurance company are looking back on the milestones the $450 million construction project reached in 2016.

Here is a 2016 month-by-month list of everything that construction crews, led by the Milwaukee office of Gilbane Building Co. and Milwaukee-based C.G. Schmidt, accomplished:

  • In January, the 30-foot-tall “picture frame” glass was installed over the building’s Mason Street entrance. The glass was delivered by several large trucks, accompanied by a police escort, from Texas. Workers also began fabricating the glass panels that make up the building’s curtain wall.
  • In February, scaffolding started going up at the insurance company’s Van Buren building, marking the start to the construction of the skywalk that will connect the existing building to the new one.
  • In March, work on the Van Buren Street skywalk kicked into high gear. The Commons’ curtain wall, made of glass and granite, was completed. Work on the glass curtain wall for the tower, meanwhile, kicked off. The yellow tower crane also reached its maximum height of 617 feet.
  • In April, the concrete core of the tower was finished, which allowed for the removal of the orange “jumper” that moved up with completion of each level of the core.
  • In May, the first landscaping work began in The Gardens. The Gilbane-C.G. Schmidt team also held a special luncheon for roughly 600 construction workers in recognition of National Safety Week. At that point, the work site had gone 650 without any lost time due to injury.
  • In June, streetscaping work commenced on the Prospect Avenue side of the tower.
  • In July, crews “topped out” the tower when they installed the final piece of structural steel.
  • In August, the white tower crane that helped build the Commons came down. Work also began on the skywalk over Mason Street. Officials also held an event to recognize the approximately 70 workers who fabricated the curtain wall for Benson Industries and Duwe Metals.
  • In September, workers poured concrete for the new sidewalk and curb on the west side of Prospect Avenue. Part of the street was also repaired.
  • In October, crews began pouring concrete for the new sidewalk in front of the company’s south building. The work has been completed as far as the middle of the stairs in front of the building. New curbs and sidewalks, street lamps, tree pits and trees will ultimately be installed all the way around the new headquarters building.
  • In November, service elevators inside the tower became fully functional, meaning the skip hoist — which carried materials, workers and equipment on the outside of the building — could be removed.
  • In December, the tower was completely enclosed in glass. The entire project consists of 3,579 panels in all. With all the glass installed, crews started dismantling the yellow tower crane just before Christmas and finished in January after heavy winds died down.

The 1.1 million-square-foot, 32-story building will be finished in the fall, as long as the flooring, finishes, fixtures and furnishings are all in place in time. The project, located near the corner of Mason and Van Buren streets, is cited by city officials and others as a catalyst for downtown Milwaukee’s ongoing building boom.

About Alex Zank, alex.zank@dailyreporter.com

Alex Zank is a construction reporter for The Daily Reporter. He can be reached at 414-225-1820.

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