Contractors were certainly busy in 2017. Here are some of the most notable projects that either wrapped up, made significant strides or got underway in the past 12 months:
Northwestern Mutual opens new HQ
The $450 million, 32-story Northwestern Mutual Tower and Commons project finished up in June following years of work. Its doors were opened to employees in August.
The 1.1 million-square-foot building near Milwaukee’s downtown lakefront serves as the insurance company’s new headquarters. Northwestern Mutual officials aren’t quite finished with their buildings plans, though: A new apartment tower is going up just blocks away. The 34-story, $100 million building will be ready for occupancy in 2018.
Bucks arena enclosed for holidays
Crews working on the Bucks arena – a $525 million project being managed by Mortenson Construction’s Milwaukee office – made significant progress on the 714,000-square-foot project in 2017.
The arena, now more than three-quarters complete, was fully enclosed around Thanksgiving. Since then, workers have directed their efforts to tasks like installing exterior panels and putting in seats. For many, it’s hard to believe that it was barely more than a year ago – in the summer of 2016 – that crews broke ground at the project’s once-vacant site, near the corner of 4th Street and Juneau Avenue.
The arena itself is just one piece of an eight-block development area. Just to its north, construction has finished up on a team-training center with an attached clinic and a parking garage. And work continues on a nearby apartment complex, which will be attached to the new garage, as well as an entertainment district just east of the arena.
Fox Cities Exhibition Center nearly here
Work on the new Fox Cities Exhibition Center in Appleton was nearing completion as 2017 drew to a close. Officials in Appleton and surrounding committees expect the center, with its 75,000 square feet of indoor space and a 17,000-square-foot outdoor plaza, to help attract more visitors to the region.
Officials are scheduled to show off the almost-finished project in early January. Neenah-based Miron Construction Co. is overseeing the work.
IKEA is coming
The Swedish furniture retailer IKEA kicked off the construction of its first store in Wisconsin this summer. The 295,000-square-foot store is being built on a 29-acre site in Oak Creek, near the northwestern corner of Interstate 94 and Drexel Avenue.
Recent months have seen crews installing the new store’s blue exterior panels and putting its large yellow “IKEA” letters into place. Company officials expect the store to be open this summer.
The project is another feather in the cap for Oak Creek, which is undergoing a building boom of its own. East of the new IKEA, along Drexel Avenue, the city has seen new commercial and residential projects go up as part of the Drexel Town Square development.
At the IKEA site, the construction work is being overseen by the Illinois-based contractor Pepper Construction. This contractor has a history of working with IKEA, having previously worked on its stores in Bolingbrook, Ill., and Schaumburg, Ill., as well as other places.
Plenty of road projects
Work on the reconstruction of the Zoo Interchange made significant strides in 2017. The Wisconsin Department of Transportation opened a number of system ramps throughout the year. Department officials say the project remains on budget and on track to wrap up in late August.
Crews also kept themselves busy expanding Interstates 39/90 between Madison and the Wisconsin-Illinois border. Bids awarded on the massive expansion project in 2017 called for the reconstruction of interstate lanes between State Highway 11 and U.S. Highway 14, as well as from Highway 14 to Hart Road. More recently, bids were awarded for the reconstruction of lanes between East Church Road and the border of Dane and Rock counties.
The project is scheduled to wrap up in 2022.
Meanwhile, work on State Highway 441 near Appleton is expected to come to an end a year ahead of schedule. In December, WisDOT officials announced the project is now likely to finish in 2019, rather than 2020. The project’s schedule was advanced in response to savings last year on various highway projects.
Not quite over the Hill Farms
Significant progress was also made this year on one of the biggest state building projects to ever be undertaken. Officials in Madison have been working for years on a plan to replace the Wisconsin Department of Transportation’s hulking 368,100-square-foot headquarters building with an even bigger, 600,000-square-foot structure that will eventually house other state agencies.
The project, which has a not-to-exceed price of $195.3 million, is being overseen by a joint venture named Smith Gilbane. This team consists of C.D. Smith Construction of Fond du Lac; Gilbane of Providence, R.I.; Hammel, Green and Abrahamson Inc. of Minneapolis; and the architecture and engineering firm Smith Group JJR LLC of Detroit.
Milwaukee streetcar lays tracks
By December, crews had managed to lay 90 percent of the tracks needed for Milwaukee’s new $124 million downtown streetcar. City officials have been calling for years for the transit line to get built, and are now only about a year away from seeing it open up to passengers.
The streetcar will initially consist of a 2.1-mile downtown loop and a 0.4-mile lakefront line extension, but the city has its sights set on further extensions in the future. The first new line will most likely run north from St. Paul Avenue to the corner of North 4th Street and West Highland Avenue. Officials are already laying the groundwork for at least two others extensions into neighborhoods north and south of downtown.
The Nebraska-based contractor Kiewit Corp. is managing the construction work, and Illinois-based Transdev Services will operate the streetcar. The city expects the first streetcar vehicle to be delivered in early 2018. Follow @alexzank