Irgens says 770 North will remain an office building

Developer once contemplated hotel, multi-family uses for building

A rendering of the 770 North project next to the BMO Tower in downtown Milwaukee. Credit: Kahler Slater

Last updated on March 17th, 2020 at 01:31 pm

The existing 20-story BMO Harris Bank office building in downtown Milwaukee will remain an office building rather than be converted to a mix of uses, says the developer planning to redevelop the building once the bank moves into the new BMO Tower next door.

The redevelopment project could commence by the end of the year.

Milwaukee-based Irgens Partners LLC is the developer for BMO Tower, the 25-story glass office tower under construction at 790 N. Water St., which will be the new home of BMO’s downtown offices and a retail branch. It is also working on plans to redevelop the existing 305,600-square-foot building at 770 N. Water St. once BMO moves out. The BMO Tower should be finished around April or May.

Mark Irgens, chief executive officer and manager of Irgens Partners, said previously that the redeveloped building — known as 770 North — could host a number of uses, including hospitality, multi-family and offices.

But those plans have since changed, and 770 North will remain largely an office building, he said.

Irgens explained during a tour of the BMO Tower project earlier this week that upon examining the market, he determined there wasn’t much appetite for more hotel rooms downtown. He added that in keeping 770 North an office building, the project would fall in line with most other Irgens Partners projects.

“There’s not really a market for a new hotel,” he said. “And then, I look at what we do as a company – we lease office space – and so, our view on it is that we’re going to create a creative office space.”

The first floor, where BMO’s downtown retail branch is currently located, will be turned into a restaurant space, Irgens said. This will be in addition to a 7,800-square-foot high-end restaurant space in the BMO Tower and a 2,000-square-foot restaurant space in the connector area between the two buildings, which would likely offer coffee, salads and sandwiches.

According to the project’s website, 770 North will be “extensively modernized” with new building systems, features and amenities.

This includes new floor-to-ceiling glass exterior windows, modernized elevators, an outdoor plaza along Mason Street and a green roof, among other things.

Irgens said the 770 North building’s exterior was power washed in the fall. But around that time, the BMO Tower project had a setback after a water-supply breach flooded the basement. This pushed back its opening from December to this spring.

The developer was making progress with 770 North until the flooding incident, which diverted much of the company’s attention, Irgens said. But soon things should be back to normal, he added.

“I think by the end of January we’re going to be in positive mode again, and then we’ll start moving forward,” Irgens said. “I want to start the (770 North) project end of 2020, but I have to get a major pre-tenant before I do that.”

Even so, some progress has been made in recent months. Project architect Kahler Slater and consulting engineers have worked on plans for the building, and Irgens received construction pricing for demolition work, he said.

“We’ve done a lot of work on it, and it’s just a matter of getting somebody to see our vision,” 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.