Irgens Ready to Build 350 KSF Milwaukee Office Tower

The developer acquired the BMO Harris Bank building and plans to develop a new 25-story BMO Harris Financial Center—where the bank will serve as anchor tenant—on an adjoining parking lot.

BMO Harris Financial Center, Milwaukee, Wis.
BMO Harris Financial Center, Milwaukee, Wis.

In downtown Milwaukee, Irgens has taken a big step forward in its plans for the development of the BMO Harris Financial Center, a 25-story office project to be anchored by BMO Harris Bank’s Wisconsin headquarters. The developer recently completed the purchase of the bank’s current home at 770 N. Water St. and its adjacent parking lot, where the new 349,000-square-foot building will be erected.

“The overall project brings in excess of $175 million in new construction and redevelopment to Milwaukee while securing the continued commitment of great companies like BMO Harris Bank and Michael Best to our community,” Mark Irgens, CEO of Irgens, said in a prepared statement.

Indeed, BMO Harris is no commitment-phobe. The financial institution has had offices on the same street since 1913, when it occupied 721 Water St., before setting up shop at the 20-story 770 N. Water St. in 1968. With a 124,000-square-foot lease in place, BMO Harris will occupy the first floor and floors 11 through 16 of the Financial Center. As for the bank’s first neighbor, Michael Best & Friedrich LLP, the law firm has committed to 60,000 square feet on the top three floors of the tower.

Now that Irgens is in official possession of 770 Water St., the company will kick off preliminary construction activities for the Kahler Slater-designed Financial Center in August. Soon after, the parking lot on the site will be demolished to make way for the Financial Center, which will include a new 647-space parking ramp and ground-level retail space.

A market on the upswing

BMO Harris Financial Center, rendering
BMO Harris Financial Center, rendering

With BMO Harris and Michael Best having preleased more than half of the Financial Center, approximately 165,000 square feet of space is up for grabs by other office users combing the market—and it’s an improving market. Milwaukee experienced positive net absorption again in the second quarter and the CBD led the way with approximately 49,100 square feet, roughly 38,700 of which was Class A product. In general, the outlook is sunny for the Milwaukee market. 

“Recent announcements of large users—BMO, Michael Best, Fiserv—leasing or looking for space has rallied the market around the idea that the time to shape the future of our city is now,” according to a second quarter 2017 report by commercial real estate services firm JLL. “Outside investment in our downtown has supported the notion, and increasing asking rates elude to the fact, that the city is being viewed in a different light recently. The foreseeable future promises continued investment in downtown Milwaukee—both privately and publicly—and the accompanying increasing cost of real estate. However, the quality will match the price tag.”

General contractor JH Findorff & Son is spearheading construction of the Financial Center, which is scheduled to reach completion in December 2019. Once BMO Harris has relocated to its new digs, Irgens will take steps to transform the vacated 770 N. Water St. into a mixed-use destination.

Images courtesy of Kahler Slater Architects