BMO Tower completion to highlight area development projects for second half of 2019

A rendering of the 770 North project next to the BMO Tower in downtown Milwaukee. Credit: Kahler Slater

The latest addition to Milwaukee’s skyline is still on track to finish at the end of this year.

Construction of the 25-story BMO Tower reached a significant milestone mid-year with the placement of the final structural steel beam in June. Milwaukee-based developer Irgens Partners LLC said work has been accelerated to ensure the project finishes up in December, at which time BMO Harris Bank is expected to begin moving in its employees from the building next door, at 770 N. Water St., and from 111 E. Kilbourn Ave.

Mark Irgens, chief executive officer and manager of Irgens, said construction of the concrete parking structure for BMO Tower took about 2 1/2 months longer than anticipated.

“There is a lot of accelerated construction work being done and the men and women actually building the project are doing a great job,” Irgens said.

Irgens is also laying plans to soon begin redeveloping the 770 N. Water St. building, where BMO currently has its offices and its downtown branch. He said that work will be a “total redevelopment,” with potential new uses for the building including a hotel or apartments. It could also continue to be used as offices.

That building’s exterior will be cleaned this summer, Irgens said. The development team unveiled a new website for the project in June, 770north.com.

Harbor District transformation

Two major projects in Milwaukee’s Harbor District are also making progress. Brownsville-based Michels Corp. started work this year on R1VER, a $100 million project at the northwest corner of South First Street and West Becher Street that includes a 210,000-square-foot office building, 19,000 square feet of retail, 119 apartments and a 110-room hotel. Michels will have a regional office that occupies about half of the office building.

David Stegeman, chief legal officer and senior vice president of Michels, said crews have started work on footings and foundations as part of the project’s first phase.

Weather permitting, “we hope to be significantly out of the ground late summer,” he said.

Stegeman noted Michels is also contemplating whether to construct a second six-story office building on the site. He said there has been interest from a single tenant for that space, though he declined to name the prospective tenant.

Komatsu Mining Corp., meanwhile, has submitted to the city its plans to develop its new $285 million headquarters and manufacturing plant on a site located south of West Greenfield Avenue and east of South First Street, along the Kinnickinnic River. The project includes 170,000 square feet of offices, 410,000 square feet of manufacturing space and a 20,000-square-foot museum and training facility.

The company has submitted for city approval of the site plan and building elevations for its new headquarters, and is also requesting a deviation from certain design standards. Those requests were approved by the city plan commission in mid-July, and would need Common Council approval.

Downtown office projects

Beyond Irgens’ BMO Tower and 770 North, other major office developments in the downtown area are underway.

Developer J. Jeffers & Co. kicked off construction of the Huron Building at 511 N. Broadway in early May. The 11-story building, which includes offices and retail space, is slated to finish in 2020.

And in June, New York-based Time Equities Inc. unveiled some of the newly remodeled space in the 14-story former Henry S. Reuss Federal Plaza, now known as 310W, at 310 W. Wisconsin Ave. Time Equities is making $30 million in renovations in order to attract new tenants to the building, which is now about 36% leased. Renovations will finish up over the next 12 to 18 months.

New hotels rising

A number of hotels in the Milwaukee area are either opening to guests or will reach significant construction milestones during the second half of the year.

Both the 227-room Drury Plaza Hotel at 700 N. Water St. and the 132-room Cambria Hotel at 503 N. Plankinton Ave. are slated to open in August. The four-story Cambria was built on the site of a parking lot, while the Drury hotel is located in the redeveloped 91-year-old former First Financial Centre building.

In late May, the developers of a two-building, three-hotel project on North Jefferson Street between East Michigan and East Clybourn streets said they had broken ground on construction work. This development milestone came after crews finished up related demolition work. One of these new buildings will contain a 115-room Home2 Suites and a 100-room Tru hotel, both Hilton brands, while the other will be a 116-room Holiday Inn Express, an Intercontinental Hotels Group brand. The developers expect work to finish sometime in the second half of 2020.

Developers on a number of other hotel projects in the Milwaukee area are aiming to open them prior to the Democratic National Convention in July 2020. Those include the 80-room Ikon Hotel at 2100 W. North Ave. in Milwaukee, a 50-room boutique hotel at 419 W. Vliet St. in Milwaukee, and a 107-room Holiday Inn Express & Suites at 10201 W. Lincoln Ave. in West Allis.

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Alex Zank, former BizTimes Milwaukee reporter.

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