Even though ground might have just been broken for the new 25-story BMO Tower in downtown Milwaukee, the developers say the project has been progressing quickly behind the scenes.
Work on the 379,400-square-foot building and 647-stall parking garage is expected to finish by December 2019, when the project will join other projects such as the Northwestern Mutual headquarters building just to the east in reshaping downtown Milwaukee’s skyline.
“In terms of how development progresses, this project has been a whirlwind,” Mark Irgens, chief executive officer of Milwaukee-based developer Irgens Partners, said at a groundbreaking ceremony on Thursday morning. “We purchased this site last August, and had shaken hands with BMO (Harris Bank) about a year earlier.”
“It is fun to celebrate the planning, negotiating, financing, leasing, equity-raising, designing, bidding and more has been accomplished. These projects are like an iceberg: One cannot see most of what has been accomplished, for it lies below the surface.”
BMO Harris Bank will lease 124,000 square feet and occupy the tower’s first, 11th and 16th floors. Michael Best & Friedrich will also move into the building, and will lease 60,000 square feet in the top three floors. The remaining building space is still out for lease.
The building’s first floor will be taken up partly by a BMO retail bank, at the corner of Water and Wells streets. Elsewhere on the same level, there will be 11,000 square feet of space set aside for retail along Water Street and at the corner of Wells Street and Broadway. Irgens is in discussion with a group that has expressed interest in opening two restaurants there.
Kahler Slater, of Milwaukee, is the project architect, and Madison-based J.H. Findorff & Son is managing the construction work.
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The BMO project is just one of several Findorff is either overseeing or has recently helped complete in the downtown area. The contractor recently finished work on both the 10-story Westin Milwaukee hotel, at the corner of East Michigan and North Van Buren streets, and a new parking garage just across the street from the Bucks’ new downtown arena, which is being built at the southwest corner of West Juneau Avenue and North Fourth Street. The developers of the 44-story Couture going up near the city’s lakefront also chose Findorff, in April, to be the contractor on that project.
John Kaltenberg, project manager with Findorff, said the fact that Findorff already has a presence in the city will make it easy to move workers to the BMO Tower.
“I think it’s definitely a benefit to have the knowledge of the people, the resources, that backlog of knowledge within the city,” he said. “It definitely helps us roll out a project and be more efficient on the project, and more timely, and everything just comes together a lot easier.”
Although the groundbreaking on Thursday marked the official start of the BMO project, work on it started in August with the relocation of utilities at the building site. Demolition work is scheduled to start early next week.
Veit & Co., of New Berlin, is doing the demolition, said Kaltenberg.
Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett has been busy attending a number of groundbreaking ceremonies recently.
“What we’re experiencing today is a very, very, very significant step in the Milwaukee renaissance,” Barrett said on Thursday. “Because I think as we all recognize, what’s going on in this city, at this time, is nothing short of remarkable.”