Former Blue Cross Blue Shield building could be converted to apartments

A developer is planning a $28 million redevelopment project to convert the former Blue Cross Blue Shield office building in downtown Milwaukee into market-rate apartments, according to plans submitted to the City of Milwaukee.

The 236,218-square-foot, 10-story office building at 401 W. Michigan St. was constructed in 1978. It was occupied by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Wisconsin until 2006, when that office and its then 750 employees moved to the Summit Place complex in West Allis. The building, which is owned by New York-based iStar Financial Inc., has remained vacant ever since.

The city’s Board of Zoning Appeals will review a request from DJ Acquisition LLC, the prospective buyer of the building, to allow the building to be converted into a multi-family residential building with dwelling units on the first floor. The building is already zoned for residential use for its upper floors, according to the proposal submitted to the city.

“(The building’s) highest and best use is now deemed to be residential,” states the proposal to the city.

No information was immediately available about DJ Acquistions LLC. However, last year BizTimes Milwaukee reported that John Mangel III, vice president of business development and acquisitions for Chicago-based HSA Commercial Real Estate, had a contract to purchase the building and was considering redevelopment options, including a conversion to a residential building. Mangel could not be reached for comment.

Mangel is the developer behind the project, said Department of City Development spokesman Jeff Fleming. Mangel could not be reached for comment.

The project could provide a significant boost to the struggling west side of downtown.

“(The project) is validation that it is a valuable site,” Fleming said. “The neighborhood has enormous potential, which is going to be realized. Increased residential has been one of the priorities identified for the neighborhood.”

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