Last updated on May 15th, 2019 at 04:51 pm
The Bon-Ton Stores Inc., which once housed 700 office employees and a retail store in downtown Milwaukee, has vacated nearly the entire building, leaving its owners free to move forward with redevelopment plans.
North Wells Capital has started interior demolition of the first, second, fourth and fifth floors of the building, said Tony Lindsay, principal of the Chicago-based group.
Bon-Ton currently occupies about two-thirds of the third floor.
“We are anticipating by mid-August there will be a new storefront (on Fourth Street) a new building lobby and we will be well on our way with demolition and construction,” Lindsay said.
Six window bays that are currently blocked will be opened up along fourth street letting more light into the building, Lindsay said.
North Wells Capital bought the building in April 2017 with plans to consolidate Bon-Ton’s overall footprint in the building while at the same time allowing them to modernize their corporate offices and upgrade the retail store.
Boston Lofts, a 74-unit apartment complex, totals 134,860 square feet on floors 6 through 9, plus 56,785 square feet devoted to a 129-stall underground parking garage.
In February, The Bon-Ton Stores filed for bankruptcy and ultimately liquidated, changing North Wells Capital’s plans for the downtown Milwaukee property, which had been one of Bon-Ton’s two headquarters offices and a Boston Store.
In May, North Wells Capital rebranded the building at 331 W. Wisconsin Ave. under the name HUB640, a name derived from the building’s new office address, 640 N. 4th St.
This is the first time in 120 years the 429,000-square-foot building has been available for lease.
North Wells Capital is currently marketing the first floor to retailers. They plan to leave the elevators in place for possible retail on the second floor; however Lindsay said with the retail market in flux, he is open to many ideas for the second floor.
So far, the company has had “very good conversations” with prospective retailers, but has not yet signed any letters of intent, Lindsay said.
The building’s 57,000-square-foot floor plates could ideally accommodate one large retailer, although Lindsay is open to two or three smaller retailers.
“What we are most excited about is the changing and up-and-coming Westown neighborhood,” he said. “To me, having one large retailer in the building would be great, but it might be even more interesting for the neighborhood to have multiple retailers to attract different patrons. We’re not going to split it into a dozen, but two or three could really liven up the neighborhood.”
Floors three through five are being marketed to office tenants, particularly users who are looking to consolidate multiple locations or move from the suburbs, Lindsay said.
Lindsay said he and the owners of The Shops of Grand Avenue and new owners of the former Reuss Federal Plaza building across the street at 310 W. Wisconsin Ave., have been in consistent contact about their independent projects.
“Each building is an individual project, but our interest is the redevelopment and energy of the neighborhood,” Lindsay said.