Decision on possible Johnson Controls office tower at least a year away

Company focusing on recently completed merger with Tyco International

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Johnson Controls International plc won’t make a decision about whether or not to build a new office tower in downtown Milwaukee for at least a year and will instead continue to focus on its recently completed merger with Tyco International, according to a company spokesman.

“Our focus right now is on completing the merger,” said Fraser Engerman, spokesman for Johnson Controls. “No decisions have been made regarding our facilities master planning for Milwaukee. With our focus on completing the Tyco merger integration, we won’t reach a decision for at least another year or so.”

Last year, Johnson Controls and the City of Milwaukee agreed to split the cost of a $500,000 feasibility study for development at a site southwest of the intersection of East Clybourn Street and North Lincoln Memorial Drive, which is being opened up by the relocation of freeway ramps. City officials are hoping to lure a major corporate headquarters to the site.

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In September 2015, Johnson Controls president and CEO Alex Molinaroli predicted a decision on the downtown site within a year, leaving people anxiously awaiting news of a possible 50-story, 1.2 million-square-foot building, which has been rumored since at least early 2015, near the lakefront.

The tower would be another game changer for the downtown Milwaukee. By comparison, Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Co. is building a 32-story, 1.1 million-square-foot office building at its downtown Milwaukee corporate headquarters campus. The U.S. Bank Center at 777 E. Wisconsin Ave. is 42 stories tall with 1.07 million square feet of space, according to city records.

Rick Barrett, the owner of Barrett Lo Visionary Development, who is developing The Couture, a $122 million, 44-story luxury apartment building at the southwest corner of Lincoln Memorial Drive and Michigan Street, said he is extremely excited and hopeful Johnson Controls will build its office tower adjacent to his site.

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“They are such a fantastic organization, I hope they can do it,” Barrett said during an interview last month. “My gut tells me yes. I know they want this site – it’s a challenging site, but we’ll do anything we can to help them with parking. We can bring parking in from any direction and we will work with them to make it work.”

This week, Johnson Controls announced its spin-off automotive division, Adient, will be headquartered in Detroitbut the Milwaukee operations will remain unchanged. Adient is leasing space at 833 E. Michigan St. and will have up to 100 employees there, including chief executive officer Bruce McDonald, according to the company.

In September, Glendale-based Johnson Controls Inc. completed its merger with Tyco International plc, creating Johnson Controls plc. Johnson Controls, a global multi-industrial firm which focuses mainly on building temperature controls and automotive batteries and interiors, expects the merger will result in $1 billion in savings.

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The new company will be based in Cork, Ireland, with a North American operational headquarters in the Milwaukee area. The decision to base the new company outside the U.S. will save Johnson Controls $150 million in taxes annually. Prior to establishing the Ireland corporate domicile, the company’s headquarters has been in Glendale.

The company currently has about 3,400 employees in the Milwaukee area and 130,000 worldwide.

Johnson Controls reaffirmed its commitment to Glendale in August with a letter to the city’s Common Council.

“Our commitment to Glendale is coming up on 50 years, and we’re looking forward to many more years,” said the letter signed by Grady Crosby, vice president of public affairs and chief diversity officer of Johnson Controls. “We have been in Glendale since 1967, when this building was Globe Union, which Johnson Controls acquired in 1978. Like a parent, we’ve proudly watched this city grow and have had the good fortune to grow alongside it.”

The letter made no mention of Milwaukee or West Allis where its other local offices are located.

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