Irgens considers middle-income housing, hotel for current BMO office building

Project will begin after new BMO Tower is completed

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When BMO Harris Bank moves into its new 25-story office tower in downtown Milwaukee Developer Irgens will redevelop the bank’s current office building at 770 N. Water St. into a mixed-use development that could include middle-income housing.

Mark Irgens, CEO of Irgens, said the redevelopment plans for the 20-story building will not include typical multi-tenant office space. The downtown Milwaukee market does not need 300,000 square feet of class B office space, he said.

Instead, he is considering partnering with non-traditional owner-users who would use a portion of the space for “institution office.”

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Another section of the building could be redeveloped as a hotel, Irgens said.

Irgens plans to redevelop BMO Harris’ current office building in downtown Milwaukee at 770 N. Water St. Possible uses include multi-family housing, “institutional office” or a hotel. The project will begin after the new BMO Tower is completed next-door in late 2019.

The remainder of the building is being considered for mid-level housing. Irgens would partner with a multi-family housing developer, since his company’s expertise is in office development.

Irgens acquired the BMO Harris Bank office building and adjacent seven-level parking structure for $7.1 million in August. Renovations will begin when BMO Harris moves into its new tower in December 2019.

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“I don’t want to compete with (apartment developer) Barry Mandel, I am looking for more of a niche multi-family that is perhaps more orientated towards the (middle-income) white collar workforce,” Irgens said. “Teachers, government workers, folks like that.”

Irgens praised the new apartment complexes that have opened in downtown Milwaukee but said he doesn’t believe people making $50,000 to $60,000 a year can afford to live in them.

His comments come at the same time as the Milwaukee Common Council will be discussing a proposed ordinance to require all new rental housing developments with more than 20 units to lease 10 percent of the apartments at below market rates to households earning less than 60 percent of the area’s median income. The median income of Milwaukee, Waukesha, Ozaukee and Washington counties is $54,336, according to the 2015 U.S. Census Bureau. Sixty percent of that is $32,601.

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Irgens’ comments about the BMO office building redevelopment project were made before information about the ordinance became wide public knowledge.

“I’m having talks with some potential folks,” Irgens said. “There are a lot of people who work in organizations downtown, who make $60,000 a year but can’t live downtown. It’s the forgotten middle class.”

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