Irgens aims for ‘Third Ward’ feel at downtown office towers with pocket park

Developer also plans public artwork, restaurant with outdoor seating

Pocket park behind 770 North. Rendering: Kahler Slater
Pocket park behind 770 North. Rendering: Kahler Slater

Last updated on January 13th, 2020 at 01:17 pm

As part of its downtown Milwaukee projects, Milwaukee developer Irgens Partners LLC aims to create an environment for tenants and visitors similar to one found in the nearby Historic Third Ward. To achieve that aesthetic, Irgens is planning a pocket park.

Beyond that, other Third Ward-type amenities include three new restaurants, one of which will have outdoor seating, and installation of public artwork.

Milwaukee developer Irgens Partners LLC is leading two major downtown office developments, including a new BMO Tower at 790 N. Water St., a 25-story glass office tower, and the redevelopment of 770 North, the existing 20-story BMO Harris Bank office building next door.

Mark Irgens, chief executive officer and manager of Irgens Partners, said the BMO Tower should be finished around April or May and that work to 770 North would ideally commence by the end of the year, depending on office tenant interest.

The pocket park would be built in a vacant lot located east of 770 North and south of the BMO Tower. Irgens said he’s planning to build a retaining wall to make roughly 40% of the site at-grade with Broadway to the east. He’s also contemplating putting up artwork on the side of the BMO Tower that faces the pocket part, as well as patio areas on the roof of the connector building between the two office towers.

“People in the lower levels of the (770 North) building, while they may not have lake views, will be looking at this pocket park,” he said. “It will be (like) a lot of Third Ward, because if you’re in the Third Ward you don’t really have a lot of views other than older buildings. And so, our idea is to create a positive experience for people wanting to be there.”

There will also be three restaurants between the two office towers. One would be in the BMO Tower, near the southwest corner of Wells Street and Broadway; another would be in the connector building, facing Water Street; and the third would be located on the first floor of 770 North where BMO’s current retail bank branch is located.

There’s also an outdoor area just south of the 770 building, at the northeast corner of Mason and Water streets. Irgens said that area will have outdoor seating for the restaurant.

Irgens also recently purchased a sculpture that was featured in Sculpture Milwaukee’s 2019 exhibition, and will install it at the front of the BMO Tower. Named “Pensive,” the sculpture is a cast bronze representative of civil rights activist and NAACP co-founder W. E. B. Du Bois.

Irgens also drew a connection between these developments and what’s happening across the river at the Deer District. There, the Bucks are aiming to further build up the area with  more commercial developments such as retail, office and hotel. It has also created an entertainment block east of the Fiserv Forum as an entertainment block.

“Everything that’s happening along Water Street, then with all the activity over at Fiserv Forum and things like that, I think we can really help connect downtown by creating this thing with 770 and BMO Tower,” Irgens said.

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Alex Zank
Alex Zank covers commercial and residential real estate for BizTimes. Alex previously worked for Farm Equipment magazine and also covered statewide construction news at The Daily Reporter. He graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, where he studied journalism, political science and economics. Having grown up in rural western Wisconsin, Alex loves all things outdoors, including camping, hiking, four-wheeling and hunting.