The Milwaukee Common Council unanimously approved a $30 million plan to help Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Co. (NML) pay for campus renovations, with 2,000 workers moving downtown from Franklin, Wis.
Milwaukee officials voted 12-0 on Tuesday to create a tax increment district and offer a $30 million developer-financed grant to Northwestern Mutual as the company plans to invest $500 million to renovate its North Office building at 818 E. Mason Street.
“We are grateful to the City of Milwaukee and the Common Council for their approval of Northwestern Mutual’s $500 million investment to re-develop its North Office Building. Today’s approval kickstarts the planning process as we look forward to a Fall 2023 start to construction,” Steven Radke, NML’s Vice President of Government and Community Relations, said in a statement.
The project would result in moving up to 2,000 workers downtown from the Franklin, Wis. campus over the next three to five years. Company officials said they’re committed to move 5,375 workers to its downtown campus when the project is completed and have 5,750 workers downtown by 2030.
The $30 million grant will last up to 20 years and comes from the NM North tax increment district. The Zoning, Neighborhoods and Development committee on March 14 passed the motion unanimously in a 5-0 vote.
In anticipation of bringing thousands of more workers commuting downtown, the city will offer a company-financed grant up to $30 million. The funds will split 75% and 25% of incremental revenue between the company and the city to pay for public infrastructure. The company will also dedicate work hours to Milwaukee residents for service and construction work.
Another $10 million from the city would go to public works projects such as road improvements and upgrades to pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure around the Northwestern Mutual campus, Alderman Robert Bauman said during an interview with The Daily Reporter.
“We very much appreciate our longstanding partnership with the city of Milwaukee and we’ll reinforce that the (tax increment financing) process is vital to our decision making process as we move forward,” Northwestern Mutual Vice President of Enterprise Compliance Rebecca Villegas said at the zonig meeting.
“It’s a subsidy that doesn’t increase anybody’s property taxes. The assistance comes in the form of the additional incremental tax revenue generated by the development itself. But for our investment, there’d be no incremental tax revenue,” Bauman told The Daily Reporter.
Bauman represents the 4th District where the North Office renovation will take place. He said the district would split incremental revenue 75/25 between the company and the city.
The company is going through a separate process with the Milwaukee Department of Public Works to vacate part of Cass Street and obtain a building permit, Bauman said. The renovation preserves the building height and footprint, Northwestern Mutual officials said when they first announced the project.
“I enthusiastically support this … from an architectural standpoint, an unbelievable project. It’s the same building, but it’s a totally new brand-new building,” Bauman said at a zoning board meeting on Tuesday.
Other officials shared his enthusiasm for Northwestern Mutual putting even more roots in downtown Milwaukee.
“I think this is a home run. You’re doubling your commitment to downtown at a time where… everyone knows that’s not the way it’s going everywhere. That’s not the way Milwaukee would go if not for decisions such as these,” Alderman Scott Spiker said at the previous zoning meeting.
Steve Schuster contributed to this report.
This story has been updated. Northwestern Mutual has a goal of bringing no less than 5,750 employees assigned to its downtown campus by January 1, 2030 and plans to move more than 2000 workers downtown in the next three to five years.