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Crane over Milwaukee marks BMO Tower’s progress

BMOcrane_klh A 280-foot tower crane stands high above the BMO Tower construction site on Monday in Milwaukee. The new BMO building, being put up on a site that was once home to a 7-story parking lot, will stand next to the bank’s current building near the corner of Milwaukee’s Water and Wells streets. (Staff photo by Kevin Harnack)

A 280-foot tower crane stands high above the BMO Tower construction site on Monday in Milwaukee. The new BMO building, being put up on a site that was once home to a 7-story parking lot, will stand next to the bank’s current building near the corner of Milwaukee’s Water and Wells streets. (Staff photo by Kevin Harnack)

What’s that in the Milwaukee skyline? It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s a crane.

A 280-foot-tall crane went up this weekend at the site of the BMO Tower, a 25-story office and parking complex under construction at 790 N. Water St., across from city hall in downtown Milwaukee. The crane will be a part of Milwaukee’s skyline for the next 18 months as crews work to complete the tower by December 2019.

The erection of the crane also marks a turning point in the project, said Rob Oldenburg, vice president of development at Irgens Partners, the tower developer. Crews are just weeks away from completing the “tedious” foundation work that’s needed to prepare the tower’s site, which was once home to a parking structure, he said.

“For us, we’ve been working on the project for about two years,” Oldenburg said. “And we’ve been working diligently to get to this point. Our favorite part is when we’re able to get out of the ground and go vertical.”

Mokena, Illinois-based Ozinga Bros. will supply the concrete for the project — requiring one of the largest continuous concrete pours in state history, Oldenburg said.

The BMO Tower broke ground in November, replacing a parking garage across from city hall. The new 379,400-square-foot building’s first 10 stories will largely be taken up by a 647-stall parking garage. Fourteen other stories will be used for office space.

Oldenburg said the building will be the sixth or seventh-tallest in Milwaukee. As construction progresses, the crane could rise to as high as 360 feet in the air.

But before building upward, crews need to finish pouring the concrete that will be used to support the structure. The tower’s foundation will require some 700,000 pounds of concrete and 16 support pillars, each of which will plunge as far as 85 feet into the ground.

BMO Harris Bank and the law firm Michael Best & Friedrich have signed on to be the building’s biggest tenants. The law firm itself has already committed to occupying about 50 percent of the tower’s office space, Oldenburg said. The commercial real estate firm Colliers International is marketing the remaining space.

Kahler Slater, an architecture firm out of Milwaukee, designed the glass tower and Madison-based J.H. Findorff & Son is the general contractor. Crews expect to complete about 10 stories of the project by the end of the year, and plan to have the final floors complete by July 2019, Oldenburg said.

“The BMO Tower brings a great deal of excitement to downtown Milwaukee and Irgens is proud to play a role in bringing this project to life,” Mark F. Irgens, CEO and manager of Irgens said in a statement. “The additional office space from this building will have a positive impact on the Milwaukee economy and create more business opportunity for the area.”

About Nate Beck, nbeck@dailyreporter.com

Nate Beck is The Daily Reporter's construction staff writer. He can be reached at (414) 225-1814 (office) or 414-388-5635 (mobile).

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