Milwaukee officials voted on Thursday to approve spending $30 million to help Northwestern Mutual’s plans to renovate its North Office building. The company launched a $500 million investment to redesign the interior and exterior of its office on East Mason Street and relocate nearly 2,000 workers from Franklin to downtown Milwaukee.
The Redevelopment Authority approved a tax incremental financing district for the project and the Common Council will have to decide whether to give final approval in March. The company’s plans include 540,000 square feet of space, campus capacity for 9,000 workers and a glass façade to match the neighboring 32-story tower to complete its downtown campus.
The tax incremental district, which takes up two parcels between North Van Buren Street and North Marshall Street, included $30 million for a grant to the company with 4.5% interest up to 23 years, company officials said. A total of 75% of incremental revenue will go to Northwestern Mutual and the rest will go to the city.
Here’s how Northwestern Mutual’s building plan costs break down.
Northwestern Mutual Vice President of Enterprise Compliance Rebecca Villegas said the company made its decision because the Franklin campus was underused, and the North Office building needed extensive infrastructure work. While other companies reduced their office space footprint due to the pandemic, Villegas said her company wanted to do the opposite.
“Many employers around us were looking to reduce footprint and move away from physical office spaces,” Villegas said. “We wanted to be part of the growing contingent of employers who were thinking differently about the office space experience, including upgrades to employee amenities so we can attract talent we need.”
In the second quarter of 2022, office vacancy rates were 22.2% in Milwaukee. A total of 276,000 square feet of new office space was under construction at the end of the first quarter.
The company had more than 4,000 employees working downtown and around 600 contractors and consultants in 2023, city officials said. In an agreement with the city, Northwestern Mutual would have to bring in 5,570 employees to its downtown campus by 2030.
The company set community benefit goals for 25% use of small business enterprise and 40% resident preferred program, company officials said. The firm will also commit $2.5 million to affordable housing or youth fitness, health or education programs.
With Connecticut-based Pickard Chilton and Houston-based Kendall/Heaton Associates as the lead architects, renderings for the North Office building showed it with a glassy façade like the existing Tower and Commons. Building plans included a pedestrian plaza on North Cass Street, which will shut down Cass Street between Mason and Wells streets.