The long-anticipated opening of the BMO Tower is here, and while at least one tenant is already moving in, anchor tenant BMO Harris Bank says it is holding off due to the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak.
Mark Irgens, chief executive and manager of BMO Tower developer Irgens Partners LLC, said he anticipated receiving occupancy permits Friday. The new 25-story glass tower, at 790 N. Water St., was initially to open in December until a water-supply beach and basement flooding at the job site pushed back that date to April.
Michael Best & Friedrich LLP, one of the building's four office tenants, said it has already begun relocating its Milwaukee office. However, its employees will continue to work remotely as they have been during the outbreak.
"After spending more than 30 years in our current Milwaukee location (at the 100 East building downtown), we’ll be relocating to the new BMO Harris Tower starting today," David Krutz, managing partner of Michael Best, said in a statement Friday. "While the move to our new office is exciting, any celebration will wait until the global health crisis subsides. As we complete our move over the course of next week, virtually all of our team members in Milwaukee will continue to work and support our clients remotely. We eagerly await the day that we can open the doors and invite our friends, partners and colleagues to the new office."
BMO, however, has delayed its downtown office and retail branch relocations due to the ongoing outbreak, said spokesman Patrick O’Herlihy. He added it is too early to provide a target future move-in date.
"The vast majority of employees at our 770 N. Water St. and Milwaukee Center locations who will be moving into the new tower have the ability to work remotely, and are working from home at present," he said in an email. "The tower is looking great and it’s ready for us to occupy, and we can’t wait to make it our new Wisconsin headquarters."
The BMO Tower is so far 55% leased. Other tenants are Heartland Advisors Inc. and Andrus Intellectual Property Law LLP.
Krutz noted his and the firm's appreciation of Irgens and Pewaukee-based VJS Construction Services, which performed tenant build-out work for Michael Best.
"It will be a great home for Michael Best and the new BMO Harris Tower will be a centerpiece of downtown Milwaukee," he said.
The Michael Best space isn't fully finished, however. In a letter to the city this week, VJS noted that work that would not be finished by Friday included finishes on the internal stair connecting the three floors of the Michael Best space, on levels 23 through 25; the 25th floor reception desk; and the conference and board room sidelights on the 25th floor. The reception desk and conference sidelights work is to finish by Friday next week, while the stairway finishes are to finish by May 29.
The overall project is being managed by Illinois-based Pepper Construction, which took over as general contractor after Irgens terminated its contract with Madison-based J.H. Findorff & Son Inc. in January.
Construction work was also directly impacted by the coronavirus outbreak. Two workers on the job site were diagnosed with the disease in late March. This caused some temporary job-site closings for cleaning, but work has continued under added safety measures.