Foley & Lardner ponders move to new office tower

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Foley & Lardner ponders move to new office tower

By Steve Jagler, of SBT

The Foley & Lardner law firm is considering moving its headquarters across downtown Milwaukee to a new office tower that is being proposed at the current site of the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts parking garage.
Real estate sources said Foley & Lardner has agreed in principle to relocate to the proposed new building, which is being planned for the northwest corner at the intersection of Water and State streets.
However, Nancy Sennett, managing partner of Foley & Lardner’s Milwaukee office, denied that an agreement had been reached. Sennett said the law firm likely will not make a decision until this summer on whether it will remain in the US Bank Center or move to another location.
Sennett confirmed that Foley & Lardner had requested a proposal from the developers of the proposed new office tower. She estimated that Foley & Lardner had made seven requests for proposals, all of which were for sites in downtown Milwaukee.
"We are in the process of exploring all of our options," Sennett said. "The renewal of our lease is being considered. We need to renew or relocate, probably downtown, and one of the alternatives is that building (at the Marcus Center)"
Jackie Walsh, a principal at Irgens Development Partners, which is recruiting tenants for the proposed building, said, "We did respond to a request for proposal from Foley," Walsh said. "We are of the understanding that they are considering it as an alternative. We’ve got an offer on the table.
"But we have responded to many (RFPs). We don’t get too excited until that lease is signed, and we don’t have anything in writing," Walsh said.
Walsh said Irgens and the Marcus Center continue to "test the market" to determine the feasibility of the new tower.
The proposed new building has been tentatively named the Ovation Center, Walsh said.
Small Business Times first reported in January that the new tower was being proposed for the site. At that time, Walsh said a commitment from a significant anchor tenant would be needed to launch the project.
Foley & Lardner would be such a tenant. The law firm’s lease for 232,000 square feet at the US Bank Center, 777 E. Wisconsin Ave., will expire in February 2005, Sennett said.
With its new lease, the law firm will be seeking a comparable amount of space, she said.
Keeping Foley & Lardner’s headquarters in Milwaukee would be a coup for the downtown, as top officials of the law firm previously said the company could consider relocating to Chicago, sources said.
Foley & Lardner does not plan to move its headquarters out of downtown Milwaukee, Sennett said. The company maintains significant offices in 16 US cities, including Chicago, she said.
As proposed, the $100 million Ovation Center would span 22 stories and would be connected to the Marcus Center at 929 N. Water St. by a skywalk over State Street.
The Ovation Center would include a mixed use of offices, retail, housing and parking, Walsh said.
The Marcus Center’s board of directors believes the current parking structure is not the best use of the property, which is located in the Water Street entertainment district, Walsh said.
Irgens has had discussions with several smaller firms interested in relocating to the Ovation Center, but those commitments will not be sought until an anchor tenant is signed, Walsh said.

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May 2, 2003 Small Business Times, Milwaukee

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